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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.

semiotek March 12, 2006, 8:43pm

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

Anonymous March 16, 2006, 11:31am

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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.

Dan March 16, 2006, 4:01pm

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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:

gaunt March 17, 2006, 6:04am

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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".

Chris March 21, 2006, 9:50pm

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Thanks! There's less confusion now!

Isabells March 22, 2006, 5:58pm

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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.

Avrom March 23, 2006, 1:23pm

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

Isabella March 23, 2006, 4:58pm

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

porsche March 25, 2006, 11:01am

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

Isabella March 28, 2006, 10:43am

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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)

Bryan April 20, 2006, 2:13pm

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

S Onosson May 18, 2006, 12:01am

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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!

Elizabeth July 29, 2008, 8:06am

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Yes     No