Innocuous vs inoculate

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Innocuous and inoculate are two words that are close in pronunciation and spelling but have different meanings. They are sometimes confused. We will examine the definitions of innocuous and inoculate, where these words came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

Innocuous describes something that is harmless, something that engenders no controversy, something dull. Innocuous is an adjective, related words are innocuously and innocuousness. The word innocuous is derived from the Latin word innocuus which means inoffensive or innocent.

Inoculate means to inject or otherwise introduce a vaccination in order to impart immunity to a certain disease. Usually, inoculate refers to an injection with a needle, but may refer to any method of introducing a substance that will impart immunity to the subject. Some diseases for which there are very effective inoculations are polio, smallpox, measles, mumps and rubella. Inoculate is a transitive verb, related words are inoculates, inoculated, inoculating, inoculation. The word inoculate is derived from inoculatus, meaning to graft a shoot from one plant onto another.


Another favourite is the operatic No More, and even the innocuous songs are more appealing than those on G.I. Blues. (The Suburban Newspaper)

The history of modern financial crises is that, originating in obscure corners of the financial system, they are initially ignored because they seem innocuous — and then wham! (The Washington Post)

“One way to improve native plant survival and growth in disturbed environments may be to inoculate seedlings with native soil microbes, which are then transplanted into a restoration site,” Cheeke said. (Science Daily)

Like other vaccines, an opioid inoculation would cue the body to generate antibodies—proteins normally associated with fighting diseases—only here they would be specifically directed against opioid molecules. (Scientific American)