be·​nign | \ bi-ˈnīn How to pronounce benign (audio) \

Definition of benign

1a : of a mild type or character that does not threaten health or life especially : not becoming cancerous a benign lung tumor
b : having no significant effect : harmless environmentally benign
2 : of a gentle disposition : gracious a benign teacher
3a : showing kindness and gentleness benign faces
b : favorable, wholesome a benign climate

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from benign

benignity \ bi-​ˈnig-​nə-​tē How to pronounce benignity (audio) \ noun
benignly \ bi-​ˈnīn-​lē How to pronounce benignly (audio) \ adverb

Benign Shares Its Latin Root With Many Words

Benediction, benefactor, benefit, benevolent, and benign are just some of the English words that derive from the well-tempered Latin root bene, which means "well." Benign came to English via Anglo-French from the Latin benignus, which in turn paired bene with gignere, meaning "to beget." Gignere has produced a few offspring of its own in English. Its descendants include congenital, genius, germ, indigenous, and progenitor, among others. Benign is commonly used in medical contexts to describe conditions, such as noncancerous masses, that present no apparent harm to the patient. It is also found in the phrase benign neglect, which refers to an attitude or policy of ignoring an often delicate or undesirable situation that one has the responsibility to manage.

Examples of benign in a Sentence

… substituting such benign power sources as the hybrid, the fuel cell, and the electric motor in place of … the internal-combustion engine. — Brock Yates, Car and Driver, May 2000 Rather than a benign fairytale creature that delivers babies, the marabou stork is an ugly, viciously predatory African bird that preys on flamingos … — James Polk, New York Times Book Review, 11 Feb. 1996 … her pulled-back black hair had gone gray in strange distinct bands, but she seemed much as he remembered her, solid and energetic, with a certain benign defiance. — John Updike, New Yorker, 23 May 1988 When she chose to smile on me, I always wanted to thank her. The action was so graceful and inclusively benign. — Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, 1969 We were happy to hear that the tumor was benign. around campus he's known as a real character, but one whose eccentricities are entirely benign
See More
Recent Examples on the Web The prevailing view of globalization as an inexorable, benign force dissolved into a seething cauldron of nationalism and populism. Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post, "Is the 9/11 era over?," 11 Sep. 2020 Did the headline writer consciously intend to render the language benign so as to conceal the controversy that actually surrounded it? Greg Weiner, National Review, "Cancel Culture Is Not the Problem; Conformity Culture Is," 10 Sep. 2020 Kuric, 31, had the plate inserted in 2015 after emergency surgeries to remove a benign brain tumor and reduce swelling. Shannon Russell, The Courier-Journal, "Report: Former Louisville star Kyle Kuric requires cranial surgery after implant breaks," 9 Sep. 2020 Deviating from that ratio can quickly render an engine’s catalytic converter—an aftertreatment system designed to convert harmful gases like nitrogen oxide into more benign substances—ineffective. Daniel Oberhaus, Wired, "Is Lightning-Fast Plasma the Key to a Cleaner Car Engine?," 9 Sep. 2020 They are blessed to live on a tropical island with 3,500 miles of coastline, lush forests, sandy beaches and a benign climate. Tony Perrottet, WSJ, "Cuba Is Staying Strong," 7 Sep. 2020 For the most part, scalp cysts are mostly genetic, benign and no cause for concern. Mona Gohara, Good Housekeeping, "7 Scalp Conditions That Cause Bumps or Spots — And How to Treat Them," 27 Aug. 2020 On its surface, eye contact may appear to be a benign exercise, but New Yorkers know failure to divert your eyes could easily be the first stage of an inevitable escalation, a foreboding incident that, tragically, often leads to conversation. Irv Erdos Columnist, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Column: Talking to strangers with little danger," 23 Aug. 2020 Sometimes doctors inject patients with benign chemicals that enhance the contrast visible in the image. Jeremy Kahn, Fortune, "Facebook and NYU researchers discover a way to speed up MRI scans," 18 Aug. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'benign.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of benign

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for benign

Middle English benigne, from Anglo-French, from Latin benignus, from bene + gignere to beget — more at kin

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about benign

Time Traveler for benign

Time Traveler

The first known use of benign was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Listen to Our Podcast about benign

Statistics for benign

Last Updated

16 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Benign.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Sep. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for benign


How to pronounce benign (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of benign

: not causing death or serious injury
: without cancer : not cancerous
: not causing harm or damage


be·​nign | \ bi-ˈnīn How to pronounce benign (audio) \

Kids Definition of benign

1 : marked by gentleness and kindness a benign ruler a benign mood
2 : not causing death or serious harm a benign growth on the skin

Other Words from benign

benignly adverb nodded benignly


be·​nign | \ bi-ˈnīn How to pronounce benign (audio) \

Medical Definition of benign

1 : of a mild type or character that does not threaten health or life benign malaria a benign liver cyst especially : not becoming cancerous a benign lung tumor — compare malignant sense 1
2 : having a good prognosis : responding favorably to treatment a benign psychosis

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on benign

What made you want to look up benign? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


Test Your Vocabulary

Challenging Vocabulary Quiz Returns!

  • stylized drawing of woman pole vaulting across gap to get trophy
  • Which is a synonym of fuliginous?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!