Word of the Day

Tuesday, August 17, 1999


\ih-NOK-yoo-uhs\ , adjective;
Harmless; producing no ill effect.
Not likely to offend or provoke; as, "an innocuous remark."
Furthermore, the public, not knowing how to interpret certain facts and figures, may end up unfairly vilifying a company that uses only innocuous traces of a certain toxic chemical.
-- "Can Selfishness Save the Environment?", The Atlantic, September 13, 2000
Maybe Grandpop misunderstood that perfectly innocuous remark and thought the man said "smell." Anyway his temper crackled and exploded.
-- John McCabe, Cagney
Anything that reeks beyond a city block is an invisible snarling dog with unknown intentions, even if, in the right context, the smell itself would be innocuous. Therefore, people complain.
-- Luca Turin, What You Can't Smell Will Kill You, New York Times, January 21, 2007
Innocuous is from Latin innocuus, from in-, "not" + nocuus, "harmful," from nocere, "to harm." It is related to innocent, formed from in- + nocens, nocent-, "harming, injurious, hence criminal, guilty," from the present participle of nocere. Less common is the opposite of innocuous, nocuous.
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