Definition of innocent in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈinəsənt/


1Not guilty of a crime or offense: the arbitrary execution of an innocent man he was innocent of any fraud
More example sentences
  • Under Turkish law, everyone accused of a political or criminal offence is innocent until the crime is proved.
  • Everyone charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed innocent until proved guilty in accordance with law.
  • If we did follow a policy of no victims' names, we'd be horribly unfair to the other party, the person who's picked up for the crime and who is innocent until proved guilty.
guiltless, blameless, in the clear, unimpeachable, irreproachable, above suspicion, faultless;
honorable, honest, upright, law-abiding
informal squeaky clean
1.1 [predicative] (innocent of) Without; lacking: a street quite innocent of bookstores
More example sentences
  • He suggested it was worrying to players to suspect they could inadvertently test positive for a banned substance, believing it to be innocent of such chemicals.
free from, without, lacking (in), clear of, ignorant of, unaware of, untouched by
1.2 [predicative] (innocent of) Without experience or knowledge of: a man innocent of war’s cruelties
More example sentences
  • The accepted view was that girls going to the marriage bed would be innocent of any sexual experience and would then gain it from their ‘considerate’ husbands.
  • She knows she is innocent of infernal rites or knowledge of Satan, but she also knows that she has seduced and killed with psychological precision.
  • It is oblivious to the suffering of the Jews in Europe and to the Holocaust and innocent of any knowledge of pogroms or ghettos.
2 [attributive] Not responsible for or directly involved in an event yet suffering its consequences: an innocent bystander
More example sentences
  • Amnesty International is worried that the stun guns could ‘inflict pain and other suffering on innocent bystanders’.
  • But Afghanistan is a hard land and the simple fact remains that those fighting for control of power rarely, if ever, bother about the suffering of innocent civilians.
  • However, we are now at war so we all need to face up to the reality and do as much as we can to ease the suffering of innocent civilians.
3Free from moral wrong; not corrupted: an innocent child
More example sentences
  • But collective punishment of a whole people, especially of innocent children, is wrong.
  • While we wait, one of us might write a speculative novel about a happy, innocent world mercifully free of insufferable literary talk.
  • Tell me that television isn't a babysitter, and that I'm corrupting her innocent l'il mind.
virtuous, pure, moral, decent, righteous, upright, wholesome;
demure, modest, chaste, virginal;
impeccable, spotless, sinless, unsullied, incorrupt, undefiled
informal squeaky clean, lily-white, pure as the driven snow
3.1Simple; naive: she is a poor, innocent young creature
More example sentences
  • You could believe he was a young cop because LAPD cops are big and strong and physical and he's also young and naïve and innocent and wide eyed.
  • Niceland revolves around Jed - a simple, innocent young man who very likely has some sort of developmental disorder.
  • To rot this thread just a little I really think we've done children a complete disservice by assuming them to be naive, innocent little creatures.
naive, ingenuous, trusting, credulous, unsuspicious, unwary, unguarded;
impressionable, gullible, easily led;
inexperienced, unworldly, unsophisticated, green;
simple, artless, guileless, wide-eyed
informal wet behind the ears, born yesterday
4Not intended to cause harm or offense; harmless: an innocent mistake
More example sentences
  • The mimicry programmes may be crude, but they are harmless and provide innocent fun to the audience.
  • We all agreed that the situation was purely innocent, harmless Internet fun.
  • You quickly and publicly recognize that even if it was an innocent mistake, his credibility is now so damaged that he can no longer help the party by remaining in the leadership.
harmless, benign, innocuous, safe, inoffensive


1An innocent person, in particular.
1.1A pure, guileless, or naive person: she was an innocent compared with this man
More example sentences
  • They are particularly impressive in their roles as the two younger girls - innocents who quickly come to grips with the nastiness of their new reality.
  • He says the Telegraph ignored important reasons to suppose that the girl, or more likely her parents, were not innocents abroad but downloaders on a big scale.
  • They were innocents abroad who were only doing what their society expected of them.
ingénue, unworldly person;
child, baby, babe;
informal greenhorn
literary babe in arms
1.2A person involved by chance in a situation, especially a victim of crime or war: they are prepared to kill or maim innocents in pursuit of a cause
More example sentences
  • Here we have on our doorstep a way of bringing to account those people who commit heinous crimes against our innocents.
  • My concern is especially for the innocents who are maimed or killed though the irresponsible behaviour of the motorbike drivers causing the problems.
  • As a test of the independence and honesty of the mass media, few tasks are more revealing than that of reporting our own government's responsibility for the killing of innocents abroad.
1.3 (the Innocents) The young children killed by Herod after the birth of Jesus (Matt. 2:16).
Example sentences
  • I think of The Slaughtering of the Innocents for example, that was one of the paintings there.
  • Some of the engravings, such as The Judgement of Paris and The Massacre of the Innocents are among Raphael's most fascinating master-pieces.
  • Ask most people today what he is known for and they will only mention the Massacre of the Innocents referred to in the Gospel of St Matthew.


Innocent properly means ‘harmless,’ but it has long been extended in general language to mean ‘not guilty.’ The jury (or judge) in a criminal trial does not, strictly speaking, find a defendant ‘innocent.’ Rather, a defendant may be guilty or not guilty of the charges brought. In common use, however, owing perhaps to the concept of the presumption of innocence, which instructs a jury to consider a defendant free of wrongdoing until proven guilty on the basis of evidence, ‘not guilty’ and ‘innocent’ have come to be thought of as synonymous. See also plead (usage).


Middle English: from Old French, or from Latin innocent- 'not harming', from in- 'not' + nocere 'to hurt'.

  • Literally meaning ‘not harming’, innocent goes back to Latin in- ‘not’ and nocere ‘to hurt, injure’, which also lies behind nuisance (Late Middle English), noxious (Late Middle English) ‘harmful’, its opposite innocuous (late 16th century), and obnoxious (late 16th century).

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: in·no·cent

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