1 : producing no injury : harmless
2 : not likely to give offense or to arouse strong feelings or hostility : inoffensive, insipid
Did You Know?
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, but like innocuous it has the in- prefix negating the hurtful possibilities. Innocuous first appeared in print in 1631 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).
Laura was relieved to discover that the wild plants her dog had eaten were innocuous.
"We're constantly being tracked through social media and our Internet browsing habits for such innocuous details as age, marital status, where we live, recent life events, education level and dog ownership, so companies can pitch their wares to us." - Elizabeth Simpson, Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Virginia), June 21, 2015
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Name That Antonym
Unscramble the letters to create an antonym of innocuous: IEOSNMO. The answer is …
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