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 Or rather, the oppression had found new, seemingly more benign forms. New York Times, 27 July 2022 The first American case of monkeypox — a more benign version of the smallpox virus typically transmitted to humans by infected animals — was detected in Massachusetts on June 19. Grayson Quay, The Week, 1 July 2022 Mark Haefele, chief investment officer of global wealth management at UBS, has a more benign view. CBS News, 13 June 2022 At present, for whatever reason, this most trusted of actors has chosen to seek cover in camouflage and to specialize in the pulling of strings, whether wicked or benign. Anthony Lane, The New Yorker, 24 June 2022 Thanks to the less-than-benign passage of time, Beavis and Butt-Head have gone from confrontational, anti-social spuds raised on heavy metal and the distant promise of sexuality to non-threatening relics. Daniel Fienberg, The Hollywood Reporter, 22 June 2022 Now, this long-running and largely benign diplomatic impasse has reached an end. Ian Austen,, 14 June 2022 Now, this long-running and largely benign diplomatic impasse reached an end. Ian Austen, New York Times, 14 June 2022 This benign and even communitarian version of slave culture was by no means confined to historians born and bred in the South. Andrew Delbanco, The New York Review of Books, 8 June 2022 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

31 Jul 2022

Cite this Entry

“Benign.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Aug. 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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