Word Confusion: Innocence versus Innocents

Posted December 4, 2017 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Ah, the innocence of the innocents lasts not long enough in this pair of heterograhs.

And I wish those innocent, ahem, writers would lose their innocence about the difference between the two!

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

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Innocence Innocents
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Dictionary.com: innocence and innocent

Close-up of a child's head tucked into an adult's shoulder

This image by Jamie Smed is under the CC BY 2.0 license, via VisualHunt.

The innocence of a young child gleams in her eyes.

Two young girls laughing as they walk down the sidewalk

“Innocence” is Faisal Bangla’s own work under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons

A pair of innocents…

Part of Grammar:
Plural for the noun: innocence
Plural for the noun: innocent

The state, quality, or fact of being innocent of a crime, offense, sin, or moral wrong

  • Lack of guile or corruption
  • Purity
  • [Euphemistic] Used to refer to a person’s virginity
  • Guiltlessness


  • Absence of guile or cunning
  • Naiveté

Lack of knowledge or understanding


  • Innocuousness


An innocent person or thing

Not guilty of a crime or offense

  • [Predic.; innocent of] Without experience or knowledge of
  • Lacking

[Attrib.] Not responsible for or directly involved in an event yet suffering its consequences

Free from moral wrong

  • Not corrupted
  • Simple
  • Naive
  • Without sin
  • Pure

Not intended to cause harm or offense

  • Harmless

Having or showing the simplicity or naiveté of an unworldly person

  • Guileless
  • Ingenuous

Uninformed or unaware

  • Ignorant

[Postpositive; followed by of] Free (of)

A pure, guileless, or naive person

A person involved by chance in a situation, especially a victim of crime or war

  • [The Innocents] The young children killed by Herod after the birth of Jesus (Matt. 2:16)

A simpleton or idiot

A guileless person

A young child

They must prove their innocence.

The healthy bloom in her cheeks gave her an aura of innocence.

They’d avenge assaults on her innocence by others.

She knew the gift had been chosen in all innocence.

The prisoner proved his innocence.

It was the arbitrary execution of an innocent man.

He was innocent of any fraud.

He was a man innocent of war’s cruelties.

The street was quite innocent of bookstores.

Oh my god, he was just an innocent bystander.

It was such a horror, such an innocent child to suffer so.

She is a poor, innocent young creature.

C’mon, it was an innocent mistake.

He gave an innocent misrepresentation.

It’s all innocent fun.

Geez, it’s a law innocent of merit.

It was sad how innocent he was of all knowledge of history.

She was an innocent compared with this man.

They are prepared to kill or maim innocents in pursuit of a cause.

Archeologists, biblical scholars, and psychiatrists have analyzed Herod the Great to determine if he truly was responsible for The Massacre of the Innocents ( Franz).

Noun: innocency [archaic], superinnocence Adjective: quasi-innocent, superinnocent
Adverb: innocently, quasi-innocently, superinnocently
History of the Word:
Mid-14th century Middle English meaning freedom from guilt is from the 12th century Old French inocence meaning innocence, purity, chastity, which is from the Latin innocentia, which is from innocent- meaning not harming or innocens meaning harmless, blameless and based on nocere meaning injure. Middle English from the Old French, or from the Latin innocent- meaning not harming, from in- (not) + nocere (to hurt).

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves? Also, please note that I try to be as accurate as I can, but mistakes happen or I miss something. Email me if you find errors, so I can fix them…and we’ll all benefit!

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Pinterest Photo Credits:

Girls Skipping at an Athletics Carnival is courtesy of the Powerhouse Museum Collection, and there are no restrictions, via Wikimedia Commons.

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