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an·​o·​dyne ˈa-nə-ˌdīn How to pronounce anodyne (audio)
: serving to alleviate pain
the anodyne properties of certain drugs
: not likely to offend or arouse tensions : innocuous
… his speech contained a single anodyne reference to the man who preceded him.John F. Burns


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: something that soothes, calms, or comforts
The sweetness of sojourn there … was an anodyne for the sorrows the pilgrims had endured …Amy Kelly
: a drug that allays pain

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Anodyne came to English via Latin from Greek anṓdynos (meaning "free from pain, causing no pain, harmless, allaying pain"), and it has been used as both an adjective and a noun ("something that soothes, calms, or comforts") since the 16th century. It has sometimes been used of things that dull or lull the senses and render painful experiences less so. British statesman Edmund Burke used it this way, for example, in 1790 when he referred to flattery as an "anodyne draft of oblivion" that renders one (in this particular case, the deposed King Louis XVI) forgetful of the flatterer's true feelings. Nowadays, in addition to describing things that dull pain, anodyne can also refer to that which doesn't cause discomfort in the first place.

Example Sentences

Adjective the otherwise anodyne comments sounded quite inflammatory when taken out of context Noun the dentist prescribed an anodyne after the root canal as an anodyne for the stress and superficiality of the modern world, there's nothing better than reading a literary classic of substance and insight
Recent Examples on the Web
But also savagely funny, especially in an evening of mostly anodyne patter. Devan Coggan And Leah Greenblatt,, 13 Mar. 2023 As Anwar points out, language can be ambiguous in some circumstances, whereby a word can be hateful in one context and anodyne in another. IEEE Spectrum, 19 Feb. 2023 That work, however, had tended toward anodyne meditations on standing desks or summer camp. Molly Fischer, The New Yorker, 24 Jan. 2023 The encounter began with a seemingly anodyne greeting before quickly turning violent, according to an investigator’s account. Arelis R. Hernández, Star Tribune, 11 Oct. 2020 Triangle of Sadness critiques class in a dull, Marxist way that is almost anodyne. Armond White, National Review, 27 Jan. 2023 Ohio State Murders opens in a perfectly anodyne way, with Suzanne delivering a guest lecture. Wendy S. Walters, Harper's BAZAAR, 9 Jan. 2023 Since the start of the Covid-19 crisis, Zoom has evolved from being anodyne conference call software to a household name symbolizing much of remote-work life. Marty Swant, Forbes, 29 Sep. 2021 But that seems to be an anodyne way of saying that the exact nature, cause, and solution to burnout aren't entirely clear. Whizy Kim,, 28 Sep. 2021
Peterson pauses, running his hand along the blue aluminum-anodyne actuator machined to match the length of Daniel’s right thigh. John Brant, Popular Mechanics, 27 Apr. 2020 This is the confluence that defines the spectacle: statistics, like photographs, have a kind of moral authority, one whose meaning may repel us but one that nevertheless encourages certainty, and thus anodyne. Shannon Pufahl, The New York Review of Books, 21 Apr. 2020 Ten years ago, lazy auto writers used the Toyota Camry as shorthand for anodyne transportation, a car for people who think of cars as appliances. Ezra Dyer, Car and Driver, 13 Mar. 2020 The result of all that rulemaking and political sensitivity is the anodyne Covid-19. Adam Rogers, Wired, 11 Feb. 2020 To yield to the soft tyranny of transgender pronouns is to pretend that gender dysphoria is an anodyne lifestyle on which societal legitimacy should be conferred, not a psychological malady requiring compassion and psychological treatment. Josh Hammer, National Review, 27 Jan. 2020 As head of state, the British monarch is expected to remain publicly neutral on political matters, and the queen’s addresses tend to be broad, anodyne and even a little opaque. New York Times, 24 Dec. 2019 Santa Clausification’—the softening of a public figure’s profile into something more anodyne and broadly acceptable. Osita Nwanevu, The New Republic, 25 Sep. 2019 Even gluttony can be spun as anodyne, a form of self-care. Carrie Battan, The New Yorker, 2 Dec. 2019 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'anodyne.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History



borrowed from Latin anōdynus "allaying pain," borrowed from Greek anṓdynos "free from pain, causing no pain, harmless, allaying pain," from an- an- + -ōdynos, adjective derivative (with compositional lengthening) of odýnē "pain," of uncertain origin

Note: In earlier etymological dictionaries (Frisk, Chantraine), odýnē is taken be a derivative, with a heteroclitic suffix *-ur-/*-un-, of the verbal base *h1ed- "eat" (see eat entry 1), with the assumed change of e > o by vowel assimilation before a following -u-; allegedly comparable are Armenian erkn "labor pains, grief," Old Irish idu "pain, pangs of childbirth." More recently a different hypothesis proposes that the base of odýnē is a verbal root *h3ed- "bite, sting," seen perhaps in Lithuanian úodas "gnat" (< *h3od-o-). (See R. Beekes, Etymological Dictionary of Greek, Brill, 2010.)


borrowed from Latin anōdynum "something allaying pain," borrowed from Greek anṓdynon "freedom from pain," noun derivative of anṓdynos "free from pain, causing no pain, harmless, allaying pain" — more at anodyne entry 1

First Known Use


1543, in the meaning defined at sense 1


circa 1550, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of anodyne was in 1543


Dictionary Entries Near anodyne

Cite this Entry

“Anodyne.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Mar. 2023.

Medical Definition


1 of 2 adjective
an·​o·​dyne ˈan-ə-ˌdīn How to pronounce anodyne (audio)
: serving to ease pain


2 of 2 noun
: a drug that allays pain
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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