1. Not straightforward or candid; insincere or calculating: “Increasingly, the question of immigration has become a disingenuous stalking-horse for race and racial hostility” (Tyler Stovall).
2. Pretending to be unaware or unsophisticated; faux-naïf.
3. Usage Problem Unaware or uninformed; naive.
Usage Note: Disingenuous means “not ingenuous,” that is, not innocent, naive, or guileless. As such it can refer to someone who is insincere or calculating, as in It is both insensitive and disingenuous for the White House to describe its aid package and the proposal to eliminate the federal payment as “tough love,” or to someone who is pretending to be unsophisticated, as in “I don't have a clue about late Beethoven!” he said. The remark seemed disingenuous, coming from one of the world's foremost concert pianists. Both of these examples were accepted by 90 percent of the Usage Panel in our 2016 survey. As with many words containing prefixes that negate (dis-) or seem to negate (in-), speakers sometimes lose track of exactly what is being negated, and sometimes use disingenuous when ingenuous would be more appropriate, namely as a synonym for naive. This usage is considered an error by careful writers: in our 2016 survey, 87 percent of the Usage Panel disapproved of the phrase the disingenuous tourist who falls prey to stereotypical con artists.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.