Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day


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Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.



June 21st, 2015

Episode 233 of 681 episodes

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 21, 2015 is: ingenuous \in-JEN-yuh-wus\ adjective 1 : showing innocent or childlike simplicity and candidness 2 : lacking craft or subtlety Examples: The salesman had perfected the art of winning over potential buyers by playing the part of a folksy, ingenuous bumpkin who is just looking out for his customers. "Wearing his yellow tights and green tunic with pride, a gangling James Moye portrays Buddy as an endearing, mildly anxious man-child with an ingenuous personality and a wide smile." Michael Sommers, New York Times, December 14, 2014 Did you know? Today, the words ingenuous and ingenious have distinct meanings and are not used interchangeably, but that wasn't always the case. For many years, the two words were used as synonyms. Ingenious has always had the fundamental meaning of "clever," and ingenuous has been most often used to suggest frankness and openness (owing either to good character or, now more often, innocence), but there was a time when ingenious could also mean "frank" and ingenuous could mean "clever." The publication in 1755 of Samuel Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language, in which these synonymous uses are not recognized, may have had something to do with establishing ingenious and ingenuous as distinct words. In any case, they appear to have ceased being used as synonyms by about 1800.