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[bih-nahyn] /bɪˈnaɪn/
having a kindly disposition; gracious:
a benign king.
showing or expressive of gentleness or kindness:
a benign smile.
favorable; propitious:
a series of benign omens and configurations in the heavens.
(of weather) salubrious; healthful; pleasant or beneficial.
Pathology. not malignant; self-limiting.
Origin of benign
1275-1325; Middle English benigne < Anglo-French, Old French benigne (feminine), benin (masculine) < Latin benignus kind, generous, equivalent to beni-, combining form of bonus good (see bene-) + -gnus, derivative of the base of gignere to beget (see genitor, genus), hence, perhaps, “good by nature”; cf. malign
Related forms
benignly, adverb
superbenign, adjective
superbenignly, adverb
unbenign, adjective
unbenignly, adverb
1. good, kindly, benignant, benevolent, tender, humane, gentle, compassionate.
3. sinister. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for benign
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • His face was pale, but radiated inner serenity; a benign smile played upon his lips; his eyes looked kindly and all-forgiving.

    A Family of Noblemen Mikhal Saltykov
  • Gentleness and mercy should blend their benign influences with justice.

  • Like a benign barbaric sun he surveys the world, ever at noon.

    Drum Taps Walt Whitman
  • For a few moments she listened to them, feeling elderly and benign.

    Howards End E. M. Forster
  • The occasion exerted that benign influence when the cab brought Mr. Crum's client back to the hotel.

    Man and Wife Wilkie Collins
British Dictionary definitions for benign


showing kindliness; genial
(of soil, climate, etc) mild; gentle
favourable; propitious
(pathol) (of a tumour, etc) not threatening to life or health; not malignant
Derived Forms
benignly, adverb
Word Origin
C14: from Old French benigne, from Latin benignus, from bene well + gignere to produce
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for benign

early 14c., from Old French benigne (12c., "kind, benign, merciful, gracious;" Modern French bénin, fem. bénigne), from Latin benignus "kindly, kindhearted, friendly, generous," literally "well born," from bene "well" (see bene-) + gignere "to bear, beget," from genus "birth" (see genus). For similar sense evolution, cf. gentle, kind (adj.), generous. Related: Benignly.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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benign in Medicine

benign be·nign (bĭ-nīn')
Of no danger to health, especially relating to a tumorous growth; not malignant.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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benign in Science
Not life-threatening or severe, and likely to respond to treatment, as a tumor that is not malignant. Compare malignant.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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benign in Culture
benign [(bi-neyen)]

A descriptive term for conditions that present no danger to life or well-being. Benign is the opposite of malignant.

Note: The term benign is used when describing tumors or growths that do not threaten the health of an individual.
The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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