The words meaningless, pointless, useless all have some degree of negative connotation to me as a non-native english speaker.

I'm trying to express that a certain configuration has no effect to a system at all. The sentence I am trying to use is: The configuration xyz is ... (without any effect).

Update: The negative connotation that I mean is what may be communicated inadvertently to the one that attempted to effect the system when he is told by the other that his configuration has no effect. I altered the title of the question to express where the negative connotation I meant referred to

  • configuration xyz doesn't work or isn't working.
    – user140086
    Mar 9 '16 at 13:50
  • I'm looking for one word. Mar 9 '16 at 13:51
  • The best one I can think of is ineffective but that still has a negative connotation. Mar 9 '16 at 13:53
  • 1
    As a programmer, I think of void
    – jera
    Mar 9 '16 at 13:57
  • 1
    Inconsequential might work. Mar 9 '16 at 14:01

Perhaps a term borrowed from other science, such as inert

  1. Chemistry Not readily reactive with other elements; forming few or no chemical compounds.
  2. Having no pharmacologic, metabolic, or other physiological effect.

American Heritage Dictionary

or unreactive (sometimes nonreactive)

Having little tendency to react chemically.

Oxford Dictionaries Online

These terms are more often used in chemistry or biology, but may be found in physics (describing response to magnetic or electrical fields).


Why not just simply say "The configuration xyz has no effect"?

  • 1
    I feel like accepting this answer since none of the proposed single words seem fit. May 16 '18 at 14:49

I'd suggest benign.

In quite a few contexts, mainly medical, it has a positive connotation.

The Free Dictionary defines it as:


  1. a. Having little or no detrimental effect; harmless: a benign chemical; benign indifference. b. Of no danger to health; not malignant or disease-causing: a benign tumor.
  • Thanks for your suggestion. But something benign has effect right? A harmless effect. A benign tumor alters a person's physiology (without causing harm). I'm looking for a word that implies having absolutely no effect at all. Mar 9 '16 at 20:33
  • Irrelevant may have a slightly negative connotation.
  • Negligible means very small.  I suppose something could have a measurable effect that's small enough that you are willing/able to ignore it; that would be considered negligible, so this might not be the right word for you.  (This is comparable to null, which somebody else mentioned.)
  • Non-applicable strikes me as neutral.
  • Neutral may be useful.  I'm not sure how useful it is as a standalone word, but it can be used as part of a hyphenated word.  For example, when somebody proposes a change in the income tax structure (e.g., from graduated to a flat tax) that keeps the average rate the same, so the government collects the same amount of money (but with a different distribution of who pays how much), the proposal is called revenue-neutral.  Since you haven't really identified your context ("system" is pretty general), I can't tell how well this will work for you.

If the important thing is that your configuration does not have any negative effect, then nondetrimental may be appropriate.

Not detrimental; harmless. (Wiktionary)

  • Thanks for your suggestion too. Non detrimental implies having some effect. One that isn't harmful. I'm looking for a word that implies having absolutely no effect at all. Mar 9 '16 at 20:35

I would say that the configuration of XYZ is inconsequential:

of little or no importance; insignificant; trivial.


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