I understand that the words genuine and authentic differ in some scenarios.

For example, if we say that a designer bag is genuine then it is not a replica; and if we say that an Italian restaurant is authentic, then the food is made the Italian way. But in English, we do not say that a designer bag is authentic and an Italian restaurant is genuine. We say that a cold caller is genuine if he's not scamming, and that a radio advert is authentic if the statements it makes are true. But we do not say a cold caller is authentic and a radio advert is genuine.

So when using an adjective to describe a person, not a specific behaviour they exhibit, but a person, what is the difference in calling a person authentic, and calling them genuine?


"You're such a genuine person Molly!" Meena told her

"You're such an authentic person Molly!" Meena told her

What difference in meaning is conveyed by the two sentences?

  • 1
    Your premise is faulty. I certainly can say (for instance) that an Italian restaurant's food is authentic (representing cuisine from Italy) and genuine (made with real ingredients—as opposed to an art gallery display of inedible material depicting food). – Jason Bassford Supports Monica Jun 5 '18 at 8:25
  • Virtually all food is genuine because you can safely eat it and get nutrition from it. The only food that isn't genuine is food that defies the meaning of food, such as raw meat and fish that causes food poisoning, food that hasn't been cooked properly that causes food poisoning, GM foods, and food that contains diseases. What I meant to say in my question is that nobody goes to a restaurant and says "This food is genuine." Of course its' genuine! The restaurant wouldn't in business if they sold poisonous food. Bringing up food depicted in art is outside the scope of this topic. – desbest Jun 5 '18 at 8:30
  • By your logic, every inanimate object in the world is genuine, unless it is depicted in an artform as a representation of the real world object. I believe the words you are looking for are real things and fictional things. – desbest Jun 5 '18 at 8:34
  • I would find it highly unlikely I would be served "fake" food in a restaurant. But what you're asking for is an analysis between the meanings of the two words. (And by mentioning an art gallery, I did provide a real-world example of word use that you rejected.) But it's actually more complicated than this because both words have multiple senses—and a sense of one word may be synonymous with a sense from the other word. Depending on a particular sense, there may nor may not be a difference between the two. – Jason Bassford Supports Monica Jun 5 '18 at 8:42
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    I don't know whether this is enough for an answer, but I'd venture to suggest that if there is a difference in the usage of those terms, a genuine person is one whose emotions and overtures etc are real, whereas an authentic person is one whose behaviour matches their philosophy of life (not a hypocrite). – Lawrence Jun 5 '18 at 10:55

AHD gives a sense for genuine that on consideration is seen to require a sentient being as referent:

3a. Honestly felt or experienced: genuine devotion

and one that even more clearly must refer to a person:

  1. Free from hypocrisy or dishonesty; sincere: Is he being genuine in making these compliments?

while RHK Webster's [op cit] combines these senses:

  1. free from pretense, affectation, or hypocrisy; sincere: genuine admiration; [he is clearly genuine]

The closest approach to these senses the above dictionaries make when it comes to authentic is

Conforming to fact and therefore worthy of trust, reliance, or belief

which obviously if taken strictly (conforming to fact ...) precludes a human referent.


I'd say that the usages of 'authentic' have been broadened, patterning on 'genuine', to include human referents, but that this usage is still rather jarring (perhaps intentionally, to avoid cliché). 'An authentic guy can teach you a lot about being genuine.' {The Whole Guy Thing: What Every Girl Needs to Know about Crushes, Friendship ... by Nancy N. Rue}

'Authentic' still at least connotes quite strongly something tangible produced faithfully (eg 'an authentic document'), leaving 'genuine' the more standard choice for a person.

  • Do you think that one or both of the words authentic and genuine, have been commonly used wrongly by society, so the meaning of the word has been distorted over time? – desbest Jun 5 '18 at 9:19
  • Semantic shift is the rule rather than the exception, and what must be considered acceptable is determined by the victors. – Edwin Ashworth Jun 5 '18 at 9:46

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