Suppose a particular person is well-known for being skeptical about the truth of just about everything someone tells him. That is, he requires stronger evidence (whether it be mathematical, logical, empirical, whatever) to believe a statement is true, than other people. Suppose, however, that occasionally he unexpectedly lowers his standards, so that for a particular statement he can be described as gullible or naive.

Is there an adjective to describe him on those occasions?

Writing something like, "Occasionally the usually skeptical Mike can be surprisingly gullible," conveys the intended meaning. But I seeking a word that would convey the same meaning in a shorter sentence such as, "Mike is being [WORD]."

  • Where I come from, we say he must have a girlfriend. Apr 12, 2018 at 14:08
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    Why force yourself into one questionable word when a few say exactly what you mean? "unexpectedly gullible"? Also, did you do the usual clicking through links in a thesaurus for antonyms of skeptical?
    – Mitch
    Apr 12, 2018 at 14:08
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    If there is no good word, then the longer version is acceptable. It just seems to me that there probably is an appropriate word, which just isn't in my vocabulary yet. Apr 12, 2018 at 14:10
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    I'm pretty sure we have the very useful adverb "surprisingly" (and its synonyms like "unexpectedly" and "uncharacteristically" and "peculiarly" and "notably") specifically because most adjectives don't inherently include this characteristic. We use compounds for concepts like "unexpectedly spicy" and "surprisingly beautiful" and "uncharacteristically cruel", even though we probably run across things/people meeting those descriptions more often than individuals who fit your description.
    – 1006a
    Apr 12, 2018 at 14:51
  • He asked the question 2 hours ago. It's not worth waiting to see if anyone comes up with anything before shooting it down as a question with no possible answer? If you aren't aware of a word that fits, why not watch and see what others come up with? Even if one never turns up, it's not necessarily a wasted exercise to explore the possibilities. Sheesh, people.
    – spoko
    Apr 12, 2018 at 16:31

3 Answers 3



accepting something too easily, because of being unwilling or unable to criticize

Cambridge Dictionary

Its meaning is in the same ballpark as gullible or credulous, but in my experience it's more often used to describe someone's temporary state, whereas gullible (e.g.) tends to describe what kind of person they usually are. A similar example is Unsuspecting (trusting; not aware of any danger or harmCambridge).

Another possibility that comes to mind is Ingenuous:

honest, sincere, and trusting, sometimes in a way that seems silly

Cambridge Dictionary

Again, this one seems to me more often applied in a temporary/specific manner. Cambridge gives this example:

It was rather ingenuous of him to ask a complete stranger to take care of his luggage.

Which, as you can see, applies to the person's specific action in that moment. Contrasted with their example for gullible:

a gullible young man


I propose a broader interpretation, one that's not specifically about skepticism versus credulousness. The problem with being so specific is that you'd then have to have a single word for every possible "normal" state and every possible "opposite" state—which is not at all practical. (For example, a single word for suddenly neat, suddenly kind, suddenly intelligent, and so on.)

But English doesn't work like that. Instead of inventing a word that means "suddenly credulous," we simply use the two words, with the first being an appropriate adverb.

However, in this case, neither "suddenly" nor "surprisingly" seem to capture your specific meaning. I don't think you intend for the specific belief to suddenly change in the space of seconds, nor for it to necessarily be a belief that is, itself, shocking. Rather, it's a belief that is out of character.

What I propose is the two-word phrase uncharacteristically credulous.

(Regardless of if you use "credulous" or something else, I believe that "uncharacteristically" is the most appropriate adverb for your scenario. But I do also believe that "credulous" is a more accurate antonym of "skeptical" than "gullible.")


"Mike is being (surprisingly) credulous.

Mike's out-of-character behaviour could be communicated by omitting 'surprisingly' and using intonation.

Credulous - Ready, willing, or inclined to believe (ODO).

  • This is a close synonym of 'gullible' and, like that word, doesn't contain the 'out of character' sense. Apr 12, 2018 at 14:40
  • @EdwinAshworth - 'Credulous' is to 'gullible' as 'weak' is to 'vulnerable'; different words with different meanings.
    – Dan
    Apr 13, 2018 at 7:18

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