in·​ge·​nue | \ˈan-jə-ˌnü, ˈän-;ˈaⁿ-zhə-, ˈäⁿ-\
variants: or ingénue

Definition of ingenue 

1 : a naive girl or young woman

2 : the stage role of an ingenue also : an actress playing such a role

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Did You Know?

Although Becky Sharp, the ambitious heroine of William Makepeace Thackeray's 1848 novel Vanity Fair, is not usually thought of as innocent or naïve, the first recorded use of "ingenue" in English does refer to her. Thackeray's use was attributive: "When attacked sometimes, Becky had a knack of adopting a demure ingenue air, under which she was most dangerous." The word ingenue typically refers to someone who is innocent to the ways of the world, so you probably won't be too surprised to learn that it shares an ancestor, Latin ingenuus, with "ingenuous," a word meaning "showing innocent or childlike simplicity and candidness." More directly, our "ingenue" comes from French ingénue, the feminine form of ingénu, meaning "ingenuous."

Examples of ingenue in a Sentence

In her latest film she plays the part of an ingenue.

Recent Examples on the Web

The company’s latest ad (below) features 20-year-old ingenue Elle Fanning and rapper A$AP Ferg. Kara Thompson, Town & Country, "Tiffany & Co. Will Now Let You Personalize With Custom Symbols and Monograms," 29 June 2018 In Venezuela, one man has ruled as king in transforming fledgling ingenues into flawless beauty queens: Osmel Sousa. Washington Post, "In embattled Venezuela, beauty offers ladder out of poverty," 6 July 2018 That sort of social network remains vital to the world's purveyors of pearls, as well as mansions—as does a new generation of clients, a powerful group that includes numerous ingenues and princesses-to-be. Stellene Volandes, Town & Country, "Was the Cartier Mansion the Real Estate Deal of the Century?," 6 Sep. 2016 These aren't the shrinking violets or breathless ingenues. Dana Oland, idahostatesman, "Pack your picnic basket: Idaho Shakespeare Festival brings Stephen King, ABBA and more | Idaho Statesman," 23 May 2018 Liz is blessed with the kind of Broadway-pure soprano that every budding ingenue dreams of having. Randy Cordova, azcentral, "Ann Hampton Callaway, Liz Callaway offer fans a musical cult classic in 'Sibling Revelry'," 11 May 2018 Co-starring Cher, Burlesque cast Aguilera as a starry-eyed ingenue turned burlesque performer, in a story intended to parallel her real-life music career. Richard S. He, Billboard, "20 Years of Xtina: How She Found, Lost and Liberated Her Voice Again," 4 May 2018 The producer allegedly invited a young ingenue to his hotel room and tried to persuade her into massages or showering., "Ashley Judd Was a #MeToo Heroine Years Before the Movement Began: A Timeline," 2 May 2018 The image of former teen ingenue Miley Cyrus twerking on the much-older, then-married singer is forever burned into our psyches, cementing a place in pop culture’s most WTF moments of the decade. J'na Jefferson, Billboard, "The Murky Legacy of Robin Thicke's 'Blurred Lines' Five Years Later: Op-Ed," 26 Mar. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ingenue.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of ingenue

1839, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for ingenue

French ingénue, feminine of ingénu ingenuous, from Latin ingenuus

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The first known use of ingenue was in 1839

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English Language Learners Definition of ingenue

: an innocent girl or young woman

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