Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.
June 17th, 2016
Episode 558 of 688 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 17, 2016 is: benign \bih-NYNE\ adjective 1 : of a gentle disposition : gracious 2 a : showing kindness and gentleness b : favorable, wholesome 3 a : of a mild type or character that does not threaten health or life; especially : not becoming cancerous b : having no significant effect : harmless Examples: "No doubt the history of this genial, white-haired American emigre was benign, but, still, I remember wondering about his real story, as distinct from the one he was telling me." — Chris Jones, The Chicago Tribune, 29 July 2013 "University of Florida Health researchers say they are making progress in ascertaining whether a kidney tumor is cancerous or benign before a patient is subjected to an invasive needle biopsy or surgery." — TheLedger.com (Polk County, Florida), 5 May 2016 Did you know? Benediction, benefactor, benefit, benevolent, and benign are just some of the English words that derive from the well-tempered Latin root bene, which means "well." Benign came to English via Anglo-French from the Latin benignus, which in turn paired bene with gignere, meaning "to beget." Gignere has produced a few offspring of its own in English. Its descendants include congenital, genius, germ, indigenous, and progenitor, among others. Benign is commonly used in medical contexts to describe conditions, such as noncancerous masses, that present no apparent harm to the patient. It is also found in the phrase benign neglect, which refers to an attitude or policy of ignoring an often delicate or undesirable situation that one has the responsibility to manage.