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 During our conversations, Marlinspike avoided making declarative statements about his plans and frequently declined requests to put seemingly innocuous information on the record. Anna Wiener, The New Yorker, "Taking Back Our Privacy," 19 Oct. 2020 Goose Island began staging Bourbon County beers releases at the Binny’s location in Lincoln Park in 2011, turning what had previously been an innocuous moment — the release of a new beer — into an event drawing large crowds. Josh Noel, chicagotribune.com, "Bourbon County beer release migrates online due to COVID-19 — and could signal a long-term shift," 14 Oct. 2020 One came during the run-up to Trump’s Senate impeachment trials in January, when CNN reporter Manu Raju asked McSally an innocuous question in the hallway of the Dirksen Senate Office Building about the case. Tom Zoellner, The New Republic, "Trumpism Ate Martha McSally’s Brain," 12 Oct. 2020 As Wachter argues, the problem isn’t simply the potential for bias, but the platforms’ ability to leverage innocuous actions (liking a post, joining a group, adding new friends) to infer intimate details like political leaning, race, or sexuality. Sidney Fussell, Wired, "Facebook Tweaked Its Rules, but You Can Still Target Voters," 12 Oct. 2020 That is when reversal No. 4 in four games arrived during an already weird season, starting with one innocuous play. G Smith, NOLA.com, "Another reversal: Tulane falls 49-31 to Houston after taking 24-7 first-half lead.," 8 Oct. 2020 The veto marks a near complete reversal of his rather innocuous sounding campaign pledge. Megan Diskin, USA TODAY, "In CA: Newsom signs last-minute bills, says there could be a million-acre wildfire," 2 Oct. 2020 And what may seem innocuous to some people are encounters that could turn deadly very quickly for Black people. Shwanika Narayan, SFChronicle.com, "Tiburon police face probe over tense exchange at town’s only Black-owned shop," 27 Sep. 2020 In a vacuum, the items on my list might seem innocuous; working from home during a pandemic is no more hurtful than a drink of water. Arkansas Online, "OPINION | BENJAMIN WARNER: Laying claim to racism," 20 Sep. 2020

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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Time Traveler for innocuous

Time Traveler

The first known use of innocuous was in 1631

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Last Updated

24 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Innocuous.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/innocuous. Accessed 28 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for innocuous

innocuous

adjective
How to pronounce innocuous (audio)

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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Comments on innocuous

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