adjective [past participle of inure]
Tolerant or immune, especially to something negative
It’s human nature to eschew unpleasant things, but as we probably all know from experience, there are times when irritation simply can’t be avoided. Whether it’s the loud radiator clanking away in the corner of your hotel room or the smell of toner wafting into your cubicle from the copy room, we all have things in our lives to which we just have not yet become inured. It can be easy to go overboard, though, so when attempting to ignore distractions in your environment, try not to become so inured that you tune out the good with the bad.
Inured signifies that someone or something has built up a tolerance to, or has insulated itself from the effects of, a source of irritation or detriment. For instance, if you have chosen to ignore the office rumormongers, you could say that you are inured to their gossip, or that you’ve become inured to them and their nosy ways. In this case, even though the spreading of rumors is ostensibly continuing, by reaching a point where you are inured to it, you have effectively chosen not to listen to it, pass it along, or participate in any way.
Notably, to be inured takes conscious effort. If you simply haven’t noticed something, even if you’d normally find it to be a nuisance, you are not inured but merely oblivious to it. If you’re talking loudly enough that you don’t notice the buzz of the cafe’s fans, you aren’t inured to them because you’re not even focusing on them. The first step on the road to inurement is to recognize your irritation with something: you have to identify what gets on your nerves before you can build up a tolerance to it. Being inured also doesn’t mean taking steps to neutralize the problem, but numbing yourself to it. Returning to our percussive radiator, to say you’re inured to it means you eventually got used to the sound, not that you got it repaired. The noise is still there whether or not you choose to recognize it. When you’ve become inured to something, you’ve overcome it by will alone.
In law, inured may be used to say that a legal action has taken effect. Typically, the word is used in the phrase inured to the benefit of [someone], which means that something has become available as an asset to the person specified. For example, if you sign a business contract promising that 99% of your profits will be inured to the benefit of your partner, you’ll probably regret it in the future. Note that in legal contexts, inured is often spelled in its older form: enured.
Example: After only a few weeks she had become inured to the sound of the violinist practicing upstairs, coming to quite enjoy the sound.
Example: Medical researchers worry that the overuse of antibiotics has inured some strains of bacteria to even the most potent drugs.
Example: My great-uncle’s last will declares that his enormous home, along with the equally enormous piles of junk inside it, should be inured to my benefit.
Inure arrived in English sometime in the mid-15th century along with its alternate form, enure. Inure actually comes from the now obsolete phrase put in ure, meaning “put to use” or “put to work,” which first came into use earlier in the 15th century. The word ure is a noun, now no longer in use, which meant “habit, practice, usage,” and likely came from the Latin opera, meaning “work” by way of the Old French oeuvre, also meaning “work.”
Inure: The root verb for inured, inure, means to insulate or habituate something or someone from the effects of something else.
Example: Some legends hold that skilled assassins would inure themselves to the deadly toxins they used by ingesting trace doses every day for years.
Inures: This simple present form of inure is used when something causes someone to develop immunity or tolerance to something.
Example: Sometimes a stereotype inures one from seeing reality.
Inuring: Inuring is the process by which a person or thing develops immunity or tolerance to something. Inuring is the present participle of inure.
Example: Her productivity depended on inuring herself to her loud, chatty coworker in the cubicle across the aisle.
Inurement: This noun form of inure indicates the act or state of becoming insulated to a source of irritation.
Example: Mere days after finally achieving total inurement to her distracting colleague, he left for a new job across the country!
Enure, Enured: The next time you read a legal document or an older piece of writing, you may run into the word enure or its past participle, enured. Enure is an older, alternate spelling of inure, meaning that enured and inured can technically be used interchangeably. We say “technically” because this usage of enured is somewhat old-fashioned; as a result, it’s fairly uncommon in everyday conversation and writing.
In legal contexts, though, enure and enured continue to thrive. Legal professionals commonly use enure to say that something like an asset or policy has become usable or owed to someone. For example, if you sign a will stating that your estate will enure to the benefit of your children after your death, all it means is that your kids will become owners of your property after you pass away. Inure is occasionally used in this sense as well, but enure remains the word of choice in contracts and other legal documents.
Example: According to the contract, my signature had enured creative control of my comic strip to the benefit of the publishers
From Philippa Gregory’s The Red Queen:
This is a generation of men accustomed to warfare, inured to danger and familiar with cruelty.
Gregory characterizes the people of Medieval England as so familiar with the ravages of war that they are unfazed by, and even accustomed, or inured, to the perils of constant fighting and the human misery it causes.
When you’re inured, you’re insured against annoyance.
When you’re inured, you tune out impure stimuli.
Bring out the linguist in you! What is your own interpretation of inured. Did you use inured in a game? Provide an example sentence or a literary quote.