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

Momentum in football sometimes teeters on something as innocuous as an offsides penalty. Jeff Miller, Los Angeles Times, "Chargers face Lions embracing the pressure of defending their NFL road warrior title," 14 Sep. 2019 Some scientists are trying to figure out why people cringe at close-up photos of objects as innocuous as a frothy latte. BostonGlobe.com, "‘‘The new iPhone is creeping me ... out with the 3 little cameras,’’ one Twitter user wrote.," 13 Sep. 2019 This is true even for something as innocuous as following an old boyfriend or girlfriend online. Washington Post, "Flirting online and relationship troubles go hand-in-hand, even if no one finds out, new research shows," 6 Aug. 2019 Entomologists had known the insect to be innocuous for decades when Fuller published his dramatic account, and his claims were widely mocked by experts. Scientific American, "How Misinformation Spreads—and Why We Trust It," 3 Sep. 2019 That tidbit, however, might have been innocuous and not the main reason for the jury misconduct. Angela Ruggiero, The Mercury News, "Ghost Ship trial: How often are trials upended by juror misconduct?," 20 Aug. 2019 On a recent morning, the school arranged for reporters to sit in on a lecture where officials were learning about environmental sustainability, a topic that just so happened to be politically innocuous. Washington Post, "Inside China’s top ‘party schools’: Plenty of Communist doctrine on tap," 15 July 2019 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

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

7 Oct 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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