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

The show’s success made the Tasmania native an instant and unlikely celebrity; pop culture’s premier autistic Antipodean lesbian, suddenly an ingenue at 40. Leah Greenblatt,, "Hannah Gadsby brings her shrewd discomfort comedy to new show Douglas," 26 July 2019 And should said moments function as a lesson in French girl beauty—from femme fatale to ingenue—all the better. Calin Van Paris, Vogue, "Bella Hadid Reveals Two Femme Fatale Makeup Looks in Paris," 27 Sep. 2018 An exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery traces the trajectory of Anderson’s life, from young ingenue to European concert hall star to civil rights pioneer to cultural icon. Alicia Ault, Smithsonian, "How Marian Anderson Became an Iconic Symbol for Equality," 9 Apr. 2014 Speaking of role reversals, Benjamin Bratt as Patience's boyfriend cop, Tom Lone, is trapped in the ingenue role. Kirk Honeycutt, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Catwoman': THR's 2004 Review," 23 July 2019 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

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

1 Sep 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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Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for ingenue

Spanish Central: Translation of ingenue

Comments on ingenue

What made you want to look up ingenue? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


formidable, illustrious, or eminent

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