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

The press tossed out a few seemingly innocuous questions, asking whether the newborn was sleeping well and the like, but one query really caught Jenna off guard. Caroline Picard, Good Housekeeping, "Jenna Bush Hager Just Called out the Royal Baby Reporters for Their Ridiculous Questions," 9 May 2019 The thing is that belly button lint really is innocuous. Carolyn L. Todd, SELF, "Excuse Me, What Even Is Belly Button Lint?," 1 Mar. 2019 Rather less innocuous in his activities was Samuel Dickstein, a Democrat who replaced London in Congress in 1922. David Greenberg, WSJ, "Socialists Are No Strangers to Congress," 3 Jan. 2019 White walls and innocuous fixtures became popular among home decorators in part because of the Recession — the housing bubble being the very root of the financial crisis — and the lifestyle magazine Kinfolk (est. Eliza Brooke, Vox, "How the Great Recession influenced a decade of design," 27 Dec. 2018 After Tumblr initially announced the ban, users immediately began to see innocuous posts of turtles, dogs, and dolls all flagged as explicit. Shannon Liao, The Verge, "Tumblr porn vanishes today," 17 Dec. 2018 His latest offense was almost diabolically innocuous. Holman W. Jenkins, WSJ, "Crazy Elon vs. the SEC, Round Two," 1 Mar. 2019 Google does other, more innocuous business with the Pentagon, including military advertising on Google properties and Google’s ad platform, as well as providing web apps like email. New York Times, "Google Will Not Renew Pentagon Contract That Upset Employees," 1 June 2018 Not only have gray uniforms provided a widespread option for schools to don another alternate jersey, but the more innocuous color also provides greater functionality within the NCAA and many conferences’ uniform restrictions. Jake Fischer, SI.com, "‘Gray Became the New Black’: How College Basketball Jerseys Went Platinum," 21 Mar. 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

3 Jun 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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