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

This turns a weird but seemingly innocuous discovery into a nightmare, fueled by the fundamental fear of your own mind turning against you. Verge Staff, The Verge, "Smart scares for smart people," 31 Oct. 2018 Source: SEMrush While some of the content on Gab is innocuous, the site has been a haven for individuals who were kicked off Twitter for violating its rules against hate speech and harassment. Dan Frosch, WSJ, "Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting Puts Spotlight on Fringe Platforms and Their Partners," 29 Oct. 2018 These are all totally innocuous things that Joe takes as pointed signals toward him—a dangerous thing men do all the time to women that can lead to harassment, assault, or, in Beck's case, stalking. Christopher Rosa, Glamour, "Penn Badgley Is Way Creepier Than Dan Humphrey On His New Show You," 9 Sep. 2018 Two moscatos stood out from the rest, which were mostly innocuous moscatos from various regions of Europe. Alan Goldfarb, The Verge, "Artificial whiskey is coming, and one company is betting you’ll drink up," 23 Aug. 2018 An innocuous header from Perisic found its way to Mandzukic, who this time didn't miss. SI.com, "Croatia 2-1 England (AET): Three Lions' Hearts Broken as Mandzukic Scores Extra Time Winner," 11 July 2018 Why was such an otherwise innocuous hit met with such glee? Rob Manker, Naperville Sun, "Manker: Lessons learned on ballfield sometimes bring winning and losing into perspective," 5 July 2018 Why spend time in a place where even innocuous interactions are subject to grotesque harassment and patronizing attitudes? Ed Yong, The Atlantic, "The Male Echo Chamber of Political Twitter," 26 June 2018 Even innocuous things like air, water, sunlight will affect the hair cuticle. Marci Robin, Allure, "This Super-Long Ombré Hair Transformation Is a Feat of Color-Correction Magic," 13 Nov. 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

14 Jan 2019

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Time Traveler for innocuous

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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