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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.

Examples of anodyne in a Sentence

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
Those might seem like anodyne promises, but they were well received by an electorate exhausted by 14 years of Tory drama and dysfunction, which delivered Brexit and (not coincidentally) economic stagnation. Max Boot, Washington Post, 8 July 2024 In January, forty-nine senators from his party backed an anodyne resolution sponsored by Hawaii’s Brian Schatz affirming Congress’s commitment to a two-state solution; Fetterman refused to sign on. Benjamin Wallace-Wells, The New Yorker, 24 June 2024
The vision is an anodyne of rage. Sasha Frere-Jones, Harper’s Magazine , 4 Nov. 2022 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 See all Example Sentences for anodyne 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'anodyne.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

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 20 Jul. 2024.

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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