- Date: 14th century
- b : chastity
- c : freedom from legal guilt of a particular crime or offense
- d (1) : freedom from guile or cunning : simplicity (2) : lack of worldly experience or sophistication
- e : lack of knowledge : ignorance <written in entire innocence of the Italian language — E. R. Bentley>
Innocence can also refer to a state of unknowing, where one's experience is lesser, 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.
In some cases, the term of "innocence" connotes 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 the prime factor in determining a person's point of view, innocence is often also used to imply an ignorance or lack of personal experience.
A "loss of innocence" is a common theme in fiction and pop culture, and is often seen as an integral part of coming of age. It is usually thought of as an experience or period in a child's life that widens their awareness of evil, pain or the world around them. Examples of this theme include the novels To Kill a Mockingbird and Lord of the Flies.
- Paton, Chalmers Izett (1873). Freemasonry: Its Symbolism, Religious Nature, and Law of Perfection. Reeves and Turner. pp. 232–240.
- The Numismatist. American Numismatic Association. 1901. pp. 177.
- The Encyclopedia Americana: A Library of Universal Knowledge. Encyclopedia Americana Corp.. 1918. pp. 329.