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

Keep scrolling for more

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
See More
Recent Examples on the Web Other, seemingly innocuous distortions of reality can be just as lethal. Wired, "The Influencer Scientists Debunking Online Misinformation," 13 Nov. 2019 Inequality inevitably grows more pronounced because of the collective effects of enormous numbers of seemingly innocuous but subtly biased transactions. Bruce M. Boghosian, Scientific American, "Is Inequality Inevitable?," 1 Nov. 2019 The Chick-fil-A saga stemmed from a seemingly innocuous decision about which restaurants should serve travelers passing through San Antonio International Airport. Joshua Fechter, ExpressNews.com, "‘Chick-fil-A Alamodome’: New documents shed light on S.A. City Council’s controversial vote — and a never-before-seen proposal," 25 Oct. 2019 In Celeste, the crucial act of air-dashing, required to reach distant ledges, is taught to the player with a seemingly innocuous prompt: press a button and an up-diagonal direction at the same time. Sam Machkovech, Ars Technica, "When “easy mode” isn’t enough: An analysis of unclear lessons in video games," 4 Oct. 2019 One of the most impactful moments of Stanford’s 21-6 loss to No. 16 Oregon on Saturday came on what was a seemingly innocuous first-quarter pass play. Rusty Simmons, SFChronicle.com, "Stanford quarterback K.J. Costello injures hand early in loss to Oregon," 21 Sep. 2019 Yet on a seemingly innocuous Tuesday, the iconic amphitheater was already advertising its inaccessibility. Los Angeles Times, "Review: Benjamin Millepied’s ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ this time at the Hollywood Bowl," 17 July 2019 That includes such seemingly innocuous matters as the order of names on ballots. Bobby Caina Calvan, sun-sentinel.com, "Democrats complain of Trump ‘ballot bias’ in 2020 election," 16 July 2019 But as Facebook moves toward allowing users from all three of its major services to message each other across a single technical backend, even seemingly innocuous features like this can risk intense scrutiny. Jon Porter, The Verge, "WhatsApp tests feature that shares your status to Facebook and other apps," 26 June 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about innocuous

Listen to Our Podcast about innocuous

Statistics for innocuous

Last Updated

18 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for innocuous

The first known use of innocuous was in 1631

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for innocuous

innocuous

adjective
How to pronounce innocuous (audio)

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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on innocuous

What made you want to look up innocuous? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

the exactly right word or phrasing

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Pass the Little Ribbons: A Pasta Word Quiz

  • rotelle pasta
  • Match the pasta to its meaning in English: Rotelle
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Dictionary Devil

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!