Submitted by isabella on March 12, 2006

Genius and Ingenious

Genius has no ‘o’ in it and yet ingenious does. Why the difference in spelling?

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The simple answer is that there isn't really a question. If you check the etymology of the two words, you'll find that they don't in fact share a common root as you seem to assume.

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Gee, I checked and they DO share a common root.

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If you pronounce them correctly, they don't sound alike, either.

Ingenious: "intellectual, talented," from M.Fr. ingénieux "clever, ingenious" (O.Fr. engeignos), from L. ingeniosus "of good capacity, gifted with genius," from ingenium "innate qualities, ability," lit. "that which is inborn," from in- "in" + gignere, from PIE *gen- "produce." Sense of "skillful, clever" first recorded 1548

Genius: from L. genius "guardian deity or spirit which watches over each person from birth; spirit, incarnation, wit, talent," from root of gignere "beget, produce" (see kin), from PIE base *gen- "produce." Meaning "person of natural intelligence or talent" first recorded 1649.

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It gets even more complicated (sticky in both root and meaning) when you throw "ingenuous" into the mix; an example of language as some sort of devil's whore and complicated to teach. Different roots all.

But (the inimitable) languagehat addresses this by way of OED cut/paste here:

http://www.pepysdiary.com/archive/1661/01/30/#1...

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"genius" is a noun.
"ingenious" is an adjective.

"-ous" is an English adjective ending; "-us" is a noun ending originating from Latin.

Consider the difference between "callus" and "callous".

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Thanks! There's less confusion now!

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Dan--

They don't sound alike? Wow, have I been pronouncing them incorrectly the entire time? Or perhaps it's a dialect difference? I've certainly always pronounced "ingenious" (not to be confused with "ingenuous", of course) pretty much exactly the way I pronounce "genius", except with an "in-" at the beginning.

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You know what, Avrom? I was thinking the same thing.

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Avrom, Iisabella, the dictionary backs you up. They are pronounced the same.

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Yes, I tried the dictionary and listened to its pronounciations earlier: they are the same in the last syllable.

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I suppose you could pronounce them

ingenious - 'in-jenn-you-us'

genius - 'jean-you-us'

But that would depend upon if you were pro-Jenn, or pro-Jean. (joke)

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Where I come from, genius has two syllables, and ingenious has four. Gen-ius, in-gen-i-ous.

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Bryan--

The word "ingenuous" is not pronounced the same as "ingenious," nor does it share the same meaning.

Ingenuous (in one meaning an obsolete form of "ingenious") has a second meaning referring to innocence, child-like simplicity, demonstrating a lack of subtlety. Pronouced in-jehn-you-us.

Ingenious is the adjective noting aptitude or demonstration of genius. Pronounced in-jeen-yus or in-jean-yuhs.

Similar roots, but different meanings!

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