benign

adjective

be·​nign bi-ˈnīn How to pronounce benign (audio)
1
a
: 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
3
a
: showing kindness and gentleness
benign faces
b
: favorable, wholesome
a benign climate
benignity noun
benignly adverb

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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
Recent Examples on the Web At first glance, the items listed for sale on Craigslist seemed benign: Blue socks. Connor Sheets, Los Angeles Times, 7 June 2024 Miss Manners would rather attribute the mistake to benign ignorance than willful malice. Judith Martin, The Mercury News, 25 May 2024 While most polyps are benign, others will turn into cancer over many years. Mary Kekatos, ABC News, 24 May 2024 This benign safety profile stands in stark contrast with the highly immunogenic AAV vectors that are currently most widely used for delivery of gene-therapies. Kansas City Star, 21 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for benign 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'benign.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

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

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

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

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Dictionary Entries Near benign

Cite this Entry

“Benign.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/benign. Accessed 23 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition

benign

adjective
be·​nign bi-ˈnīn How to pronounce benign (audio)
1
: of a gentle disposition : gracious
2
: favorable
a benign climate
3
: of a mild type or character
especially : not becoming cancerous
a benign tumor
benignity noun
benignly adverb

Medical Definition

benign

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

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