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

Other Words from benign

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

Benign Shares Its Latin Root With Many Words

Benign comes from Latin benignus, which was formed from bene, meaning "well," and gignere, "to beget." Gignere is the root of such English words as genius and germ.

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 More pulses of ice were to come — like the bank-to-bank icebergs set to arrive from Dawson City a few days later — but the first stage of breakup was somewhat benign. Ned Rozell, Anchorage Daily News, 14 May 2022 But today’s mining techniques are environmentally benign, suggest Ned Mamula, an author and geologist. Ken Silverstein, Forbes, 24 Apr. 2022 When a book Stalin was reading provoked his particular attention, the consequences were not often purely benign. Algis Valiunas, National Review, 31 Mar. 2022 But not all mood-boosting skin-care products are so benign. Dianna Mazzone, Allure, 19 Jan. 2022 After undergoing surgery to remove the lump, which was thankfully benign, Orji has since become a firm advocate for regular screenings and checkups. Michella Oré, Vogue, 22 Nov. 2021 Still, the roaming packs of wild boars seen feasting at trash bins around the city these days are not exactly benign. Amy Kellogg, Fox News, 5 Oct. 2021 As the elk of Point Reyes might attest, grass-fed beef and dairy are not ecologically benign. Jan Dutkiewicz, The New Republic, 23 Sep. 2021 Still, these colds are not completely benign; one of the common-cold coronaviruses has caused deadly outbreaks in nursing homes before. Sarah Zhang, The Atlantic, 17 Aug. 2021 See More

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.

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

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

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Last Updated

20 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Benign.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for benign


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

More from Merriam-Webster on benign

Nglish: Translation of benign for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of benign for Arabic Speakers


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