Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Naive and Naivety

The words ‘naive’ and ‘naivety’ both refer to the same concept. However, they are different forms of the same word.

‘Naive’ and ‘naivety’ both come from French. ‘Naive’ and ‘naivete’ were separate words, with ‘naivete’ coming from ‘naive’. The –te on the end was used to turn feminine adjectives into nouns, especially when it is an abstract concept. ‘Naive’ in turn came from the adjective ‘naif’, with ‘naive’ being the feminine singular. ‘Naif’ came from Old French, carried through from the beginning as an alteration of the Latin adjective ‘nativus’. That word meant something that was created, something that was inborn or present since birth, or something natural or native. ‘Nativus’, in turn, came from ‘nascor’, which meant ‘to be born’.

The etymology has always had a strong connection with birth, as well as natural or new things. This still holds true with the word ‘naive’, which is an adjective. It is used to describe someone who is like a child in some way. This is most often used to mean the negative parts of being like a child. Someone who is naive most often lacks worldly experience, wisdom, or judgement. This is in contrast to the word ‘innocent’, which can also mean lacking parts of adulthood. While innocence is considered something positive or good to have, being naive is usually a bad thing.

“They were so naive that they tried to cut open a goose to get a lot of eggs at once.” 

In some cases, it can also mean someone who is not sophisticated, such as lacking table manners.

“Would anyone be naive enough to pick their nose at the dinner table?”

In art, it can also refer to something that deliberately does not choose a complicated or sophisticated style. It is not always negative in this sense, since choosing something that focuses more on the bare details can sometimes be powerful.

‘Naivety’ is the noun form of the word. It is the concept of a lack of experience, lack of wisdom, or lack of judgement.

“His naivety is what led him to the seedy part of town.”

Some similar words exist, such as ‘gullibility’ or ‘credulity’. However, those both refer to the willingness to believe anything without substantial proof, no matter how ridiculous it may be. While that can be part of naivety, those are more consequences of naivety than synonyms. A person is willing to believe anything without proof because they lack the wisdom to filter out truth from something that cannot possibly be true.

One related word, which is not often used, is ‘naif’. This word is fairly old-fashioned and may be found in older texts, but very rarely in modern English. While naivety is the concept of being naive, a naif is a person who is naive.

“The little naif thought I wouldn’t find out that he took my cookies.”

It can also be used as an adjective that means the same as ‘naive’, and would be more associated with men than with women. However, since English is free of grammatical gender for the most part – with several exceptions related to natural gender or a few words borrowed from French such as ‘blond’ and ‘blonde’ – and since the word is rarely used, it does not matter much.

To summarize, ‘naive’ and ‘naivety’ are both from French and originally from a Latin word that emphasizes childishness. ‘Naive’ is an adjective that means that someone lacks the wisdom or experience of an adult. ‘Naivety’ is a noun which refers to the concept of lacking wisdom or experience.  A naif would be a person who is naive, though this word is not often used.

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