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adjective in·noc·u·ous \i-ˈnä-kyə-wəs\

Simple Definition of innocuous

  • : not likely to bother or offend anyone

  • : causing no injury

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of innocuous

  1. 1 :  producing no injury :  harmless

  2. 2 :  not likely to give offense or to arouse strong feelings or hostility :  inoffensive, insipid

innocuously adverb
innocuousness noun

Examples of innocuous in a sentence

  1. Gossip is a relatively innocuous manifestation; fashioning one's self as eternally battling a white America mired in “racism” is a more noisome one. —John McWhorter, Wall Street Journal, 17 Sept. 2003

  2. Small and innocuous looking, the habanero is uncontested as the hottest pepper in the world, the mother of all peppers. —Jim Robbins, Smithsonian, January 1992

  3. And there was LeRoy … a somewhat gruesome but innocuous neighborhood dimwit who gave me the creeps when he sat down on the front stoop to listen to a bunch of us talking after school. —Philip Roth, New York Times Book Review, 18 Oct. 1987

  4. The salamander, an innocuous amphibian like a big newt, was also regarded with a mixture of horror and awe. —David Attenborough, The First Eden, 1987

  5. He told a few innocuous jokes.

  6. <those innocuous lies we must tell every day if society is to remain civil>

Did You Know?

Innocuous has harmful roots - it comes to us from the Latin adjective innocuus, which was formed by combining the negative prefix in- with a form of the verb nocēre, meaning "to harm" or "to hurt." In addition, "nocēre" is related to the truly "harmful" words "noxious," "nocent," and even "nocuous." "Innocent" is from "nocēre" as well, although like "innocuous" it has the "in-" prefix negating the hurtful possibilities. "Innocuous" first appeared in print in 1598 with the clearly Latin-derived meaning "harmless or causing no injury" (as in "an innocuous gas"). The second sense is a metaphorical extension of the idea of injury, used to indicate that someone or something does not cause hurt feelings, or even strong feelings ("an innocuous book" or "innocuous issues," for example).

Origin of innocuous

Latin innocuus, from in- + nocēre (see innocent)

First Known Use: 1598

INNOCUOUS Defined for Kids


adjective in·noc·u·ous \i-ˈnä-kyə-wəs\

Definition of innocuous for Students

  1. :  not harmful <innocuous chemicals>

innocuously adverb

Medical Dictionary


adjective in·noc·u·ous \in-ˈäk-yə-wəs\

Medical Definition of innocuous

  1. :  producing no injury :  not harmful

innocuously adverb

Seen and Heard

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