adjective be·nign \bi-ˈnīn\

Definition of benign

  1. 1 :  of a gentle disposition :  gracious a benign teacher

  2. 2a :  showing kindness and gentleness benign facesb :  favorable, wholesome a benign climate

  3. 3a :  of a mild type or character that does not threaten health or life; especially :  not becoming cancerous a benign lung tumorb :  having no significant effect :  harmless environmentally benign


play \-ˈnig-nə-tē\ noun


play \-ˈnīn-lē\ adverb

benign was our Word of the Day on 06/17/2016. Hear the podcast!

Examples of benign in a sentence

  1. … 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

  2. 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

  3. … 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

  4. 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

  5. We were happy to hear that the tumor was benign.

  6. around campus he's known as a real character, but one whose eccentricities are entirely benign

Recent Examples of benign from the web

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Did You Know?

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.

Origin and Etymology of benign

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

First Known Use: 14th century

BENIGN Defined for English Language Learners


adjective be·nign \bi-ˈnīn\

Definition of benign for English Language Learners

  • medical : not causing death or serious injury

  • : without cancer : not cancerous

  • : not causing harm or damage

BENIGN Defined for Kids


adjective be·nign \bi-ˈnīn\

Definition of benign for Students

  1. 1 :  marked by gentleness and kindness a benign ruler a benign mood

  2. 2 :  not causing death or serious harm a benign growth on the skin


adverb nodded benignly

Medical Dictionary


adjective be·nign \bi-ˈnīn\

Medical Definition of benign

  1. 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 1

  2. 2:  having a good prognosis :  responding favorably to treatment a benign psychosis

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