in·​ge·​nue | \ ˈan-jə-ˌnü How to pronounce ingenue (audio) , 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

Centineo has previously fronted campaigns for the American brand before, which has a reputation for turning ingenues into household names, including Kate Moss and Mark Wahlberg in the '90s. Nicole Saunders, Harper's BAZAAR, "Noah Centineo Strips Down to His Underwear for His Latest Calvin Klein Campaign," 9 May 2019 Meanwhile, Prabal Gurung–clad beauties Gemma Chan and Lana Condor chatted up ingenues Timothée Chalamet and Troye Sivan. Edward Barsamian, Vogue, "Ahead of the Globes, BAFTA Los Angeles Hosts a Star-Studded Haute Tea Party," 6 Jan. 2019 Hamilton alum Renée Elise Goldsberry swiped on a vibrant crimson lip color to offset her flirty Carolina Herrera polka-dot ensemble while platinum ingenue Sara Paxton wore a crisp cherry shade with her verdant Tanya Taylor frock. Jenna Rennert, Vogue, "The Best Beauty Looks From the 2018 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Awards," 6 Nov. 2018 None other than 18-year-old ingenue Liv Tyler in the 1996 cult-classic Stealing Beauty. Lauren Valenti, Vogue, "6 Beauty Moments That Ruled the New York Runways This Weekend," 10 Sep. 2018 Barks plays Vivian like a classic bright-eyed ingenue, conscious of her worth and ready to prove it, rather than as a street-smart, wary kid who needs a nudge to demand more of herself. Aja Romano, Vox, "Pretty Woman: The Musical is high on charm, low on substance," 17 Aug. 2018 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 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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Last Updated

23 Jun 2019

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Time Traveler for ingenue

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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Spanish Central: Translation of ingenue

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