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What is the difference between naïve and ignorant? I want to make sure I understand the proper meaning and connotation of each word.

For example, how would you describe a person who makes inappropriate (e.g., discriminatory or offensive) comments about something due to lack of experience or knowledge? Is this person naïve, ignorant, or both? What connotation does each carry when used to describe the person in this case?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Naive has less of an association of being willfully misinformed. There are many usages e.g. "naive Bayesian", but the appropriate definition here is:

  1. marked by unaffected simplicity: artless, ingenuous... 2. deficient in worldly wisdom: credulous

Ignorance can reveal itself when a person unquestioningly sticks to a particular view point, due to an unwillingness or inability to consider alternatives. Ignorance

results from or shows lack of knowledge or education; lack of intelligence or awareness

The person described in the question could be both naive and ignorant. Naivete can be due to an unsophisticated world view, or unrealistic outlook from a lack of practical experience. But that doesn't have negative associations. I think ignorant would be the most well-understood way of describing a person with the attitudes mentioned.

Instead of naive, consider provincial, as that has negative connotations and is better matched with ignorant.

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Being "ignorant refers to a lack of knowledge. Being "naive" refers to a lack of understanding.

An ignorant person (factually) might nevertheless have great understanding and therefore not be naive. Think of the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz.

A well-informed (non-ignorant) person might also be naive because s/he doesn't understand things. Maybe the Cowardly Lion is in this category.

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+1 for drawing a good distinction. –  Kris Feb 19 '12 at 14:45
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Ignorant has a strong negative connotation and means that a person doesn't know things that they should know. Naive has a more neutral connotation and generally indicates a person who isn't familiar with the way the world works. Naive can sometimes even have a positive connotation and mean someone who hasn't been jaded by the negative realities of the world. Naive people are likely to be trusting or unsophisticated.

Essentially, ignorance is a lack of knowledge or education. Naivety is a lack of experience and wisdom.

Someone who makes inappropriate comments would more likely be described as ignorant. Someone who thinks that bad things only happen to bad people would be described as naive.

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In other words, Ignorant people are Ipso Facto, People who Are and Always Will Be Ignorant, whereas Naieve people are merely in need of Some More Time to Grow Up. –  Warren P Feb 19 '12 at 4:14
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-1; ignorant does not always have a 'strong negative connotation'. I, for example, am ignorant of the rules of American Football. –  Jez Feb 19 '12 at 10:22
    
@Jez That you chose to use the word "ignorant" rather than just saying that you don't know them gives that statement, at least to me, a strong negative connotation. –  David Schwartz Feb 19 '12 at 21:32
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naive is someone who doesn't see the bad in people or in some situations, maybe due to lack of experience but it doesn't mean he s stupid or ignorant. it definitely has nothing to do with ignorance!

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please add some references and/or definitions to inform audiences –  user49727 Sep 14 '13 at 22:51
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protected by MετάEd Sep 15 '13 at 1:18

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