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

There is the innocuous-sounding ciuccio, which literally means a baby’s pacifier. Joseph Loconte, National Review, "An Insider’s Guide to Italian Insults," 16 Aug. 2019 The collision itself seemed somewhat innocuous, but Jimenez immediately fell to the ground and grabbed his right arm and appeared to be in significant pain. Chris Bumbaca, USA TODAY, "White Sox outfielder Eloy Jimenez exits with apparent injury after bizarre collision," 16 July 2019 Some of the organizations fighting the CREATES Act have innocuous-sounding names: Patients Rising, Patients Alliance for Drug Safety Protections, and Alliance for the Adoption of Innovations in Medicine. Christopher Rowland, BostonGlobe.com, "Everyone wants to kill generic drug loophole — except drug makers and some GOP leaders," 19 Mar. 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. Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Washington Post, "A middle school teacher led a double life as a white nationalist podcaster," 5 Mar. 2018 Seems innocuous enough, but what Roberson didn’t realize, at least at first, was that Birmingham, Alabama, officers used Xs to indicate a vehicle with missing or expired plates. Brian Barrett, WIRED, "A Brief History of Vanity License Plates Gone Wrong," 18 Aug. 2019 Most of the tips that come in to his department are found to be innocuous, Koren said. Madeline Holcombe, CNN, "If you see a red flag for a mass shooting, this is what you should do," 18 Aug. 2019 While naming a hurricane, for example, might seem innocuous, studies show that hurricanes with traditionally feminine names are perceived as less serious than ones with male names, resulting in lower evacuation rates and higher death rates. Ashley Abramson, Allure, "Need Scientific Proof That Gender-Neutral Language Is Important? Here You Go," 7 Aug. 2019 Other titles used familiar words like Google Update, Flashlight, and Security Update Service to appear innocuous to the intended target. Dan Goodin, Ars Technica, "Advanced mobile surveillanceware, made in Russia, found in the wild," 24 July 2019

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

9 Sep 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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