The word "ignorant" has a denotative meaning along the lines of "to lack knowledge" or "to not know", but its connotative meaning, by my understanding, is negative. Are there any synonyms of this word that have a more neutral connotation?

The stack exchange question here suggests that "uninformed" might be suitable for this purpose, but there seems to be a split consensus on that word's connotation; some see that word as connotatively negative as well. Historically, I myself have used the phrase "to not know" as a safe alternative, since it isn't my wish to stigmatize others for lacking knowledge; however, this substitute is slightly verbose. Are there other possibilities?

  • "nescient", "in the dark" or "unlearned"?.. these are all quite neutral.
    – d'alar'cop
    Commented Feb 2, 2014 at 0:45
  • 4
    I like Robusto's suggestion in the link you provided: unaware. TFD cites Collins English Dictionary's definition not fully cognizant of what is going on in the world. In my opinion, "He was unaware of X" has the same meaning as "He did not know X" without the stigma in "He was ignorant of X." Its synonym, incognizant, also seems a good choice.
    – user39720
    Commented Feb 2, 2014 at 1:02
  • 1
    Just as ignorant does not mean or imply the same thing in every context, so will be your choice of an alternative. Consider one context at a time; include that in the question for now.
    – Kris
    Commented Feb 2, 2014 at 7:28
  • What @Kris said. If someone is "generically" uninformed (i.e. - they lack knowledge of many things that most other people know about), there's probably an unavoidable real-world negative connotation anyway. There would certainly need to be some reason (they know nothing because they're incurious, unobservant, unschooled, stupid, etc.). In the absence of any specific context, I therefore think this question is Unclear. Commented Feb 2, 2014 at 12:53

5 Answers 5


"Unaware" might work in some contexts. :-)


It would largely depend upon your usage need.

For instance:

Less educated, if you wish to imply that they were not of lower intelligence, but rather lacked a formal instruction.

Unaware or uninformed, if you wish to imply that the person simply was not informed of the situation at hand.

Naive, if they even lack a frame of reference by which to actually understand.


Naive or unworldly could work, they both express the idea that a person is innocent and almost childish in their outlook, perhaps due to being sheltered and over protected in their lives.

Neither term is exactly complimentary, but they have fewer negative connotations than ignorant.


Perhaps unschooled

lacking knowledge or training in a particular field: she was unschooled in the niceties of royal behavior


If a noun is ok, you could go with Layman.

  • Rewording using this word would usually be a very good choice. Your 'answer' doesn't answer OP's question directly, but is a valuable contribution. Commented Jun 14, 2014 at 13:54

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