an·​o·​dyne | \ ˈa-nə-ˌdīn How to pronounce anodyne (audio) \

Definition of anodyne

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : serving to alleviate pain the anodyne properties of certain drugs
2 : not likely to offend or arouse tensions : innocuous … his speech contained a single anodyne reference to the man who preceded him.— John F. Burns



Definition of anodyne (Entry 2 of 2)

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

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Anodyne came to English via Latin from Greek anōdynos ("without pain"), and it has been used as both an adjective and a noun ("something that relieves pain") since the 16th century. It has sometimes been used of things that dull or lull the senses and render painful experiences less so. 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. In the 1930s, a newer second sense began appearing in our vocabulary. Now, 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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective 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 When skeptics question tenets of critical race theory that are far more radical than this anodyne description suggests, these same activists perform one of two rhetorical maneuvers. Cameron Hilditch, National Review, 11 July 2021 For Eastman, an anodyne new music culture that prided itself on functioning outside of personal identity is what needed changing. Los Angeles Times, 23 June 2021 For officials of both the U.S. Armed Forces Radio and the Chinese Communist Party, Denver offered an anodyne simplicity fit for programming, and in this simplicity, millions of Asian listeners found resonance. Jason Jeong, The Atlantic, 4 May 2021 Whether this shift toward a more anodyne, algorithmic ethos is a good thing, of course, depends on your vantage point. New York Times, 17 Feb. 2021 Despite massive public investment, Victory Park is only just emerging from its status as an anodyne, corporate non-place into an area that bears a semblance of humanity. Mark Lamster, Dallas News, 18 Dec. 2020 Another patient leaves an anodyne message requesting medication refills. Danielle Ofri, The New Yorker, 1 Oct. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun 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

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.

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First Known Use of anodyne


1543, in the meaning defined at sense 1


circa 1550, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for anodyne


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

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The first known use of anodyne was in 1543

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Last Updated

9 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Anodyne.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 Dec. 2021.

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More Definitions for anodyne



English Language Learners Definition of anodyne

: not likely to offend or upset anyone


an·​o·​dyne | \ ˈan-ə-ˌdīn How to pronounce anodyne (audio) \

Medical Definition of anodyne

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: serving to ease pain



Medical Definition of anodyne (Entry 2 of 2)

: a drug that allays pain


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