Engrained vs. Ingrained

Engrained and ingrained are both acceptable spellings of the word ingrained. However, ingrained is the standard and more common spelling, and engrained (the one that’s spelled with the letter e”) is rarely used. Ingrained is an adjective that means established beliefs or something difficult to remove.

Meanwhile, engrained is just a less common accepted spelling of ingrained that’s rarely used; it doesn’t have another meaning. Therefore, when using engrained and ingrained, it’s always better to use ingrained. It’s also worth mentioning that ingrained is commonly “misheard” or “mispronounced” as “engrained.” As a result, many spell it as “engrained.”

History of Ingrained

According to Online Etymology Dictionary, the first use of ingrained was in 1599 and meant “dyed with grain.” Around 1851, it’s used to mean “thoroughly imbued.” Its origin can be traced from the Middle English word “engreynen” and the French word “en grain.” Since the 16th century, ingrained has been used figuratively to describe something deep-rooted into someone’s habits or beliefs.

When to Use Engrained

Engrained is an accepted spelling variant of “ingrained” that’s rarely used. It means firmly established beliefs, habits, or attitudes. Literally, it also means something difficult to remove. While it’s considered an alternative spelling of ingrained, it’s uncommon and not as widely recognized.

Engrained is an Alternative Spelling of Ingrained

Since engrained is just an accepted spelling variant of ingrained, it’s better to use ingrained instead of engrained.

Referring to Established Beliefs or Habits

Being honest is engrained in their culture.
(Not recommended)

Being honest is ingrained in their culture.

Referring to Something Hard to Remove

It’s hard to remove the engrained dirt on the concave mirror.
(Not recommended)

It’s hard to remove the ingrained dirt on the concave mirror.


When to Use Ingrained

Ingrained is an adjective that means “deep-rooted or fixed,” as in forming a part of the essence of something. When we say that something is ingrained, these attitudes or behaviors are established and difficult to change. Moreover, it literally means that something ingrained on a surface is difficult to remove.

Remember, ingrained (the one spelled with the letter “i”) is the word’s standard spelling and therefore preferred to engrained (acceptable spelling but uncommonly used).

Ingrained is the Standard Spelling

Referring to Established Beliefs or Habits

Valerie’s ingrained religious beliefs make it hard for her to accept other ideas.

His girlfriend’s ingrained prejudices cannot be corrected easily.

Her coldness is deeply ingrained in her personality.

Referring to Something Hard to Remove

I had to get rid of all the ingrained coal dust from my body.

The washing machine doesn’t have the capability to remove the ingrained dirt.

You cannot remove the ink ingrained after getting a tattoo.

Engrained vs. Ingrained: Is There a Difference?

There’s a difference between engrained and ingrained, but only in spelling variation. Ingrained is the word’s standard and more common spelling, while engrained is a rarely used spelling variation of ingrained. Thus, always use ingrained instead of engrained.


Cambridge Dictionary. (n.d.) Ingrained. In https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/ dictionary. Retrieved March 17, 2022, fromhttps://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/cancel

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English Online. (n.d.). Ingrained. In https://www.ldoceonline.com/ dictionary. Retrieved from https://www.ldoceonline.com/dictionary/ingrained

Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Ingrained. In Merriam-Webster.com dictionary. Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ingrained

Online Etymology Dictionary.  (n.d.). Ingrained. In https://www.etymonline.com/ dictionary. Retrieved from https://www.etymonline.com/word/ingrained#etymonline_v_51411

Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries. (n.d.). Ingrained. In https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/us/  dictionary. Retrieved from https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/us/definition/english/ingrained?q=ingrained