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Legal Dictionary

innocence

Definition of innocence

Noun

innocence (uncountable)

  1. Absence of responsibility for a crime.

    Her attorney managed to convince the jury of her innocence.

  2. Lack of understanding about sensitive subjects such as sexuality and crime.

    In his innocence, he offered the stranger to bring the package to Paris, never suspecting it contained drugs.

  3. Lack of ability or intention to harm or damage.

    Tests have demonstrated the innocence of this substance.

Antonyms

  • (absence of responsibility for a crime): guilt
  • (ability to harm): harmfulness

Synonyms

  • (sensitive subjects): naivety
  • (ability to harm): harmlessness
  • (freedom from guilt): unguilt, unguiltness

Further reading

Innocence (or guiltlessness) is a term used to indicate a lack of guilt, with respect to any kind of crime, sin, or wrongdoing. In a legal context, innocence refers to the lack of legal guilt of an individual, with respect to a crime.

In relation to knowledge

Innocence can also imply lesser experience in either a relative view to social peers, or by an absolute comparison to a more common normative scale. In contrast to ignorance, it is generally viewed as a positive term, connoting an optimistic view of the world, in particular one where the lack of knowledge stems from a lack of wrongdoing, whereas greater knowledge comes from doing wrong. This connotation may be connected with a popular false etymology explaining "innocent" as meaning "not knowing" (Latin noscere). The actual etymology is from general negation prefix in- and the Latin nocere, "evil" or "guilty".

People who lack the mental capacity to understand the nature of their acts may be regarded as innocent regardless of their behavior. From this meaning comes the term innocent to refer to a child under the age of reason, or a person, of any age, who is severely mentally disabled.

Pejorative meaning

In some cases, the term "innocence" has a pejorative meaning, where an assumed level of experience dictates common discourse or baseline qualifications for entry into another, different, social experience. Since experience is a prime factor in determining a person's point of view, innocence is often also used to imply an ignorance or lack of personal experience.

References:

  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.



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