1 : a naive girl or young woman
2 : the stage role of an ingenue; also : an actress playing such a role
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 naive, the author used ingenue to describe her as having those qualities. 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."
"Aberra, a native of Ethiopia, helped to change the way that women presented themselves on their wedding day. She recognized that not all women wanted to promenade down the aisle looking like a Disney princess, a sweet ingenue or a modern-day Marie Antoinette." — Robin Givhan, The Washington Post, 3 Apr. 2018
"Tina Fey wrote 'Mean Girls,' but she's no Regina George. On the first day of rehearsals for her new Broadway musical, based on the 2004 hit comedy, she had a message for her cast of ingenues: Avoid the trappings of fame. That meant no diva-like behavior in real life." — Ramin Setoodeh, Variety, 10 Apr. 2018
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Test Your Vocabulary
Fill in the blanks to complete a word for an inexperienced or naive person: _ r _ en _ _ rn.VIEW THE ANSWER
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