innocuous

adjective
in·​noc·​u·​ous | \ i-ˈnä-kyə-wəs How to pronounce innocuous (audio) \

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

Originally its meaning was innocuous: a private person. Daniel Mendelsohn, Town & Country, "Is This the End of Civility As We Know It?," 29 June 2016 For anyone else, the platform would've been innocuous enough, but critics citing her husband's own propensity to attack his detractors on Twitter were quick to comment. Abby Gardner, Glamour, "Every Time Melania Trump Seemed to Publicly Contradict Her Husband," 7 Aug. 2018 Drama ensued after the break, with a seemingly innocuous corner leading to John Terry diving for a header, only to meet Abou Diaby's outstretched boot to the face. SI.com, "Arsenal vs Chelsea Preview: Classic Encounter, Key Battles, Team News & More," 23 Jan. 2018 Who would think such a seemingly innocuous product would be the cause of such a large amount of controversy? Tara C. Smith, SELF, "How Worried Do You Need to Be About Asbestos in Baby Powder and Other Talc Products?," 31 Jan. 2019 Growing as both a shrub and a vine, the innocuous-looking flora produces a noxious sap responsible for the reaction, called allergic contact dermatitis. Caroline Picard, Good Housekeeping, "How to Get Rid of a Poison Ivy Rash and Stop Itching Like Crazy," 13 July 2018 People generally seem to use these message boards for pretty innocuous stuff. Ronda Kaysen, New York Times, "Can a Building Message Board Be an Open Forum?," 31 Mar. 2018 Ethnic Uighurs and Kazakhs have told The Associated Press that ostensibly innocuous acts such as praying regularly, viewing a foreign website or taking phone calls from relatives abroad could land one in a camp. Yanan Wang, The Seattle Times, "China says interning Muslims brings them into ‘modern’ world," 16 Oct. 2018 The New York Times has complained that its paid promotions for its reporting on politics — and even for posts on subjects as innocuous as a cake recipe — have been treated as political advertising by Facebook. Ben Sisario, New York Times, "Facebook Removes a Gospel Group’s Music Video," 5 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

25 Mar 2019

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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 How to pronounce innocuous (audio) \

Kids Definition of innocuous

: not harmful innocuous chemicals

Other Words from innocuous

innocuously adverb

innocuous

adjective
in·​noc·​u·​ous | \ in-ˈäk-yə-wəs How to pronounce innocuous (audio) \

Medical Definition of innocuous

: producing no injury : not harmful

Other Words from innocuous

innocuously adverb

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likely to have or produce good results

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