Naive vs. Ignorant (meaning)

Discussion in 'English Only' started by inef85, Apr 18, 2007.

  1. inef85 New Member

    USA - English
    My roommate and I had a diagreement about the terms. Both use "inexperienced" in the definitions. However, we had differing views about their context. Here is my question:

    If you're in a long term relationship for the first time and your insecure about the relationship (and somewhat immature because you are young), and you are overly watchfull of your significant other (call all the time, "where are you," etc..) than are you ignorant or naive?

    You are "inexperienced" because it's your first time in the relationship and you're young. That is, you don't know better. You have to learn to trust.

    So, what's the difference?
  2. WongFeiHung

    WongFeiHung Senior Member

    USA English
    Sigh, if I had to choose, it would be 'naïve' - because what exactly are you ignorant about?
  3. Joelline

    Joelline Senior Member

    USA (W. Pennsylvania)
    American English
    Hi inef,

    First let me welcome you to the WR English forum!

    This is a very good question, but a difficult one. In many contexts, I think the two words could easily be used interchangeably:
    • Mary is so ignorant about men.
    • Mary is so naive about men.
    If you need to differentiate, however, I'd say that "naive" means primarily someone who lacks knowledged because he or she is inexperienced or innocent. "Ignorant" has a wider range of connotations: it could refer to lack of knowledge due to simple stupidity or to inexperience. I don't necessarily associate "innocence" with "ignorance" in this context.

    I'm not sure how helpful my answer is, but I'm sure others will have other, more helpful opinions.
  4. Suehil

    Suehil Medemod

    Tillou, France
    British English
    'Ignorant' only means 'lacking knowledge'. 'Naive' means 'unsophisticated', or 'not understanding the situation'
    I think in your example 'inexperienced' fits best, neither of the others quite covers the meaning.
  5. GuitarMaestro Senior Member

    Tucson, Arizona
    USA English
    naive suggests inexperience - one does not remain naive forever. A smart person can be naive. ignorant means uneducated, with a connotation of fundamental stupidity - a smart person is rarely ignorant, although some smart peple certainly act ignorant from time to time.
  6. neale New Member

    USA English
    Regarding these two terms I have always been taught that for each, the person does not know something, but the person who is naive SHOULD know better.
  7. Brimstone Senior Member

    México Spanish
    To Inef85:
    Naive refers to people who are esaily deceived or cheated because they are innocent, gullible, green, credulous or trusting.
  8. liliput

    liliput Senior Member

    U.K. English
    Naive has a sense of innocence and inexperience.
    Ignorant has a sense of stupidity, or unwillingness to learn.
  9. neale New Member

    USA English
    I disagree with Liliput's definition of ignorant as stupid and unwilling to learn.

    We can be ignorant of a subject because we had never had the opportunity to learn about it. With this usage it is neither "unwilling to learn" nor "stupid".

    But if we are naive about that same subject, it means to me that are innocent and inexperienced, but we had the opportunity and "should have" learned about it.

    Of course if it refers to being ignorant of the nutritional value of Brussel Sprouts, then, yes, I AM unwilling to learn! ;-)
  10. WongFeiHung

    WongFeiHung Senior Member

    USA English
    Hmm, I don't think you have to disagree with liliput's suggestions because there is nothing wrong about them. It's that there is more to being ignorant, as you said. Don't take 'has a sense of' for 'means only'
  11. liliput

    liliput Senior Member

    U.K. English
    I agree that a bare definition of ignorant is simply "lacking knowledge". What I intended to communicate was that ignorant can have very negative connotations.
    If I say I'm ignorant of a subject, this clearly means that I don't know much about the subject. If on the other hand I were simply to tell you that you are ignorant, you would be probably be offended.
    As to your definition of naive, I would describe a young child as being naive (about almost any subject) and yet they have clearly had less opportunity to learn about the world than I have.
  12. liliput

    liliput Senior Member

    U.K. English
    Of course, it always helps to check a dictionary:

    adjective 1 lacking knowledge or awareness in general. 2 (often ignorant of) uninformed about or unaware of a specific subject or fact. 3 informal rude; discourteous.


    /nieev/ (also naïve) • adjective 1 lacking experience, wisdom, or judgement. 2 (of art or an artist) produced in or adopting a simple, childlike style which deliberately rejects sophisticated techniques.

    Ignorant means lacking knowledge but has negative connotations.
    Naive means lacking wisdom, experience and judgement and has fewer negative connotations.

    Definitions courtesy of the OED.
  13. neale New Member

    USA English
  14. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England

    I think you are presenting us with a false antithesis here. What makes you assume there has to be a choice between the two? I think your character sounds to be both ignorant and naive?
  15. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    It sometimes seems useful to refer to a dictionary as well as expressing personal opinion.
    In addition to the OED definitions liliput has offered, the on-site WordReference dictionary has the following:

    naive A adjective
    1 naive, unsophisticated
    lacking sophistication

    2 callow, inexperienced, naive, unsophisticated
    lacking experience of life; "a callow youth of seventeen"

    3 naive, naif
    marked by or showing unaffected simplicity and lack of guile or worldly experience; "a teenager's naive ignorance of life"; "the naive assumption that things can only get better"; "this naive simple creature with wide friendly eyes so eager to believe app

    ignorant A adjective
    2 ignorant, illiterate
    ignorant of the fundamentals of a given art or branch of knowledge; "ignorant of quantum mechanics"; "musically illiterate"

    3 ignorant, nescient, unenlightened, unlearned, unlettered
    lacking general education or knowledge; "an ignorant man"; "nescient of contemporary literature"; "an unlearned group incapable of understanding complex issues"; "exhibiting contempt for his unlettered companions"

    4 ignorant, unknowledgeable, unknowing, unwitting
    lacking information or knowledge; "an unknowledgeable assistant"

    5 ignorant, inexperienced
    lacking basic knowledge; "how can someone that age be so ignorant?"; "inexperienced and new to the real world"

    6 unversed, ignorant
    lacking knowledge or skill; "unversed in the jargon of the social scientist"
  16. nichec

    nichec Senior Member


    How about this:

    She's naive (1.lacking sophistication--meaning she's too watchful, calling all the time and all that) because she's ignorant (5.lacking basic knowledge--because she's young, immature, and first time in love)
  17. river Senior Member

    U.S. English
    Another definition:
    Naive - not knowing anyting about the way the world works: The poor girl was naive enough to think that her lover would divorce his wife to marry her.

    Ignorant refers to a lack of knowledge on a particular subject: Even geniuses are ignorant of many facts.

    Now, you are neither naive nor ignorant if you are "overly watchfull of your significant other." You are, as you stated, insecure; that is, fearful of losing your significant other.

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