innocuous

adjective
in·​noc·​u·​ous | \i-ˈnä-kyə-wəs \

Definition of innocuous 

1 : producing no injury : harmless

2 : not likely to give offense or to arouse strong feelings or hostility : inoffensive, insipid

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Other Words from innocuous

innocuously adverb
innocuousness noun

Look at the Prefix to Define Innocuous

Innocuous has harmful roots – it comes to us from the Latin adjective innocuus, which was formed by combining the negative prefix in- with a form of the verb nocēre, meaning "to harm" or "to hurt." In addition, nocēre is related to the truly "harmful" words noxious, nocent, and even nocuous. Innocent is from nocēre as well, although like innocuous it has the in- prefix negating the hurtful possibilities. Innocuous first appeared in print in the early 17th century with the clearly Latin-derived meaning "harmless or causing no injury" (as in "an innocuous gas"). The second sense is a metaphorical extension of the idea of injury, used to indicate that someone or something does not cause hurt feelings, or even strong feelings ("an innocuous book" or "innocuous issues," for example).

Examples of innocuous in a Sentence

Gossip is a relatively innocuous manifestation; fashioning one's self as eternally battling a white America mired in "racism" is a more noisome one. — John McWhorter, Wall Street Journal, 17 Sept. 2003 Small and innocuous looking, the habanero is uncontested as the hottest pepper in the world, the mother of all peppers. — Jim Robbins, Smithsonian, January 1992 And there was LeRoy … a somewhat gruesome but innocuous neighborhood dimwit who gave me the creeps when he sat down on the front stoop to listen to a bunch of us talking after school. — Philip Roth, New York Times Book Review, 18 Oct. 1987 The salamander, an innocuous amphibian like a big newt, was also regarded with a mixture of horror and awe. — David Attenborough, The First Eden, 1987 He told a few innocuous jokes. those innocuous lies we must tell every day if society is to remain civil
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Recent Examples on the Web

As of Monday afternoon, trending hashtags included both the innocuous, like #midterms2018, and the troubling, like references to the conspiracy #qanon. Colin Lecher, The Verge, "A new project is trying to track hateful users’ activity on Twitter," 15 Oct. 2018 Investigators say any suspicious behavior should be reported, because even a message that seems innocuous could be cause for concern. Evan Macdonald, cleveland.com, "Social media complicates police job of telling if comments are ill-advised or legitimate threats," 22 Feb. 2018 The book's plot makes allusions to incendiary race and class struggles, political issues jammed into an innocuous-sounding story about two animals trying to save their farm. The Washington Post, NOLA.com, "Florida teacher suspended after being caught leading a double life as a white nationalist podcaster," 6 Mar. 2018 But the problem, Subramanian said, is that even seemingly innocuous digital interference on transit can have dire effects. Martine Powers, Washington Post, "Metro cybersecurity audit highlights growing concerns at agencies across the country," 7 July 2018 The seemingly innocuous line has never quite had a more sinister ring. Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Eat Me': Film Review," 5 July 2018 But that didn't stop critics from lumping her in with the dozens of white people who have sicced the police on people of color for innocuous activities. Cleve R. Wootson Jr., OrlandoSentinel.com, "Woman threatens to call police on 8-year-old selling water for trip to Disneyland," 24 June 2018 That one more frivolous scolding about an innocuous activity could be averted is a small victory for reason, which amounts to more than a hill of arabica beans in this crazy world. Josh Gohlke, SFChronicle.com, "Last Word: Coffee reprieve grounds for celebration," 22 June 2018 The atmosphere is somewhat innocuous with lots of general warmth in the northern Hemisphere. Dave Epstein, BostonGlobe.com, "What’s the weather going to be like the rest of the summer?," 6 July 2018

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

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First Known Use of innocuous

1631, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for innocuous

Latin innocuus, from in- + nocēre — see innocent entry 1

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Last Updated

18 Nov 2018

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The first known use of innocuous was in 1631

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More Definitions for innocuous

innocuous

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of innocuous

: not likely to bother or offend anyone

: causing no injury

innocuous

adjective
in·​noc·​u·​ous | \i-ˈnä-kyə-wəs \

Kids Definition of innocuous

: not harmful innocuous chemicals

Other Words from innocuous

innocuously adverb

innocuous

adjective
in·​noc·​u·​ous | \in-ˈäk-yə-wəs \

Medical Definition of innocuous 

: producing no injury : not harmful

Other Words from innocuous

innocuously adverb

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noxious or harmful

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