Blog Grammar Rules Ingrained vs Engrained: What's the Difference?

Ingrained vs Engrained: What's the Difference?

Hannah Yang

Hannah Yang

Speculative Fiction Author

Published Jun 09, 2022

Ingrained vs Engrained title

Ingrained and engrained are two different ways to spell the same word.

So which one should you be using?

Ingrained is the more widely recognized spelling, so it’s the one you should default to. Engrained is much less common, and is therefore less likely to be recognized by readers.

In this article, we’ll discuss the difference between ingrained and engrained in more detail.

Contents:
  1. What’s the Difference Between Ingrained vs Engrained?
  2. Examples of Ingrained Used in Sentences
  3. Examples of Engrained Used in Sentences
  4. Conclusion on Engrained or Ingrained

What’s the Difference Between Ingrained vs Engrained?

Engrained and ingrained are both acceptable spellings of the same word, but engrained is a rare alternative spelling.

If you want to use the spelling that more people are likely to understand, you should stick with ingrained.

How to spell ingrained

One helpful trick for remembering which spelling to use is to remember that ingrained is the spelling that’s already in readers’ vocabularies.

Since ingrained starts with the word in, that’s the version readers are likely to be familiar with.

If you’re struggling to remember which spelling is which, don’t forget that ProWritingAid’s Realtime Report will always be there to guide you. Sign up for a free trial today to get started.

Quick Definition & Meaning of Ingrained

The word ingrained is an adjective that means “firmly fixed” or “difficult to change.”

The definition of ingrained

It’s the adjective form of the verb ingrain, which means “to establish a habit or belief in a person,” or "to impress deeply."

For example, you might say that someone's habits are ingrained into their mind. Or, you can say that you have a deeply ingrained distrust of authority because that distrust is a core part of who you are.

Synonyms for the word ingrained include “implanted,” “embedded,” and “entrenched.”

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Quick Definition & Meaning of Engrained

Engrained means the same thing as ingrained. It’s just a far rarer spelling.

Engrained is technically correct, and nobody can tell you it’s the wrong spelling, but some readers might be confused if they haven’t encountered this alternative spelling before.

Engrained is more common in America than anywhere else in the world, but even in American English, ingrained is still the preferred usage.

Examples of Ingrained Used in Sentences

Let’s look at some examples of ingrained in successful books.

“So the manual for life already existed. It was just that it was already ingrained in everyone’s heads, and there wasn’t any need to put it in writing.”—Sayaka Murata, Convenience Store Woman

“Some of you have it ingrained in you. You weren't born with it. No baby has hate for anything. We were all babies once, right? This little guy doesn't care what country you were born in or what religion you might practice or how much you weigh or who you might love.”—A.S. King, Ask the Passengers

“I can picture her when she was much younger than I am—because there are always gestures and expressions that are ingrained, ageless. An old woman doesn't see herself as an old woman, and neither do I. I try to see her whole life in her.”—John Irving, A Widow for One Year

“The people we most love do become a physical part of us, ingrained in our synapses, in the pathways where memories are created.”—Meghan O’Rourke, The Long Goodbye

Examples of Engrained Used in Sentences

Now let’s look at some examples of engrained, which is occasionally used in books, even though it’s much less common.

“For a long time the fear of seeming singular scared me away; but by degrees, as people became accustomed to me and my habits, and to such shadows of peculiarity as were engrained in my nature—shades, certainly not striking enough to interest, and perhaps not prominent enough to offend, but born in and with me, and no more to be parted with than my identity—but slow degrees I became a frequenter of this straight narrow path.”—Charlotte Brontë, Villette

“We accept life, breathe it in and celebrate it. But when death rocks our world, turning our happiness into hurt and grief, we fight it, unable to accept something that was engrained from the beginning.”—S.K. Hartley, Finding Me

“Confidence should be engrained in my DNA, but to reach into the well, I have to constantly remind myself that I am good enough.”—Krista Ritchie, Tangled Like Us

“Fixated. Looking down toward a small community and wondering. Wondering what folks even do on their smartphones and tablets. Engrained in their simple, unimportant lives. It had gotten so bad. No real, meaningful face-to-face discussions with friends or family. Just swill. Internet as the caretaker, the listener, the lover, the receiver, and the retriever.”—Noah Nichols, No Net

Conclusion on Engrained or Ingrained

The English language can be confusing at times, especially when it allows for multiple spellings of one word, but we hope this article helped clear up the issue.

Both engrained and ingrained are correct spellings, but if you want to choose the spelling that more people are likely to recognize, ingrained is the one to opt for.


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Hannah Yang

Hannah Yang

Speculative Fiction Author

Hannah is a speculative fiction writer who loves all things strange and surreal. She holds a BA from Yale University and lives in Colorado. When she’s not busy writing, you can find her painting watercolors, playing her ukulele, or hiking in the Rockies. Follow her work on hannahyang.com or on Twitter at @hannahxyang.

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