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

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 Of course, they can be used in fairly standard, innocuous ways. Louise Matsakis, WIRED, "Facebook's Targeted Ads Are More Complex Than It Lets On," 25 Apr. 2018 So Muckrock, a nonprofit organization that helps request and analyze government documents, filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the FCC four months ago for agency emails about the video, a request that would seem relatively innocuous. Ben Collins /, NBC News, "FCC blocks reveal of emails with conservative news site about 'Harlem Shake' net neutrality video," 5 Apr. 2018 The idea that something as innocuous as a mosquito bite could cause severe birth defects, is nothing short of terrifying. Macaela Mackenzie, Glamour, "Rift Valley Fever Could Be the Next Global Health Crisis For Pregnant Women," 10 Jan. 2019 With online gambling now a huge industry, players could technically earn themselves money from something as innocuous as conceding a corner, or - more seriously - deliberately losing a game. SI.com, "Real Madrid & Barcelona Among Clubs Questioned as Spanish Youth Football Match Fixing Scandal Erupts," 22 Feb. 2018 The blood in the van could have come from an injury as innocuous as a bloody nose, O’Connor said. David Owens, courant.com, "Robert Graham Convicted Of Murder," 24 Jan. 2018 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

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

11 Feb 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 \

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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