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

Keep scrolling for more

Did You Know?


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


the otherwise anodyne comments sounded quite inflammatory when taken out of context


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
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Behind that anodyne mission statement lies a grand ambition. Los Angeles Times, "Fed’s Powell risks inflation to push economic benefits for those at the bottom," 30 July 2019 For the most part, its contents—lists of instructions and precautions, a diagram of the drug’s molecular structure—make for anodyne reading. Jonathan Zittrain, The New Yorker, "The Hidden Costs of Automated Thinking," 23 July 2019 And so, this statement, that seems very anodyne and something that nobody could be against, actually wound up being used to devalue what the Black Lives Matter movement was telling us. Justin L. Mack, Indianapolis Star, "A fatal police shooting has upended Mayor Pete Buttigieg's campaign. Here's what you need to know.," 24 June 2019 My disputant’s particular problem wasn’t with Carpenter’s voice but with its anodyne middle-of-the-road context (both musically and culturally). Wesley Stace, WSJ, "‘Voices’ Review: Singers in the Key of Life," 20 Dec. 2018 That anodyne language masks the conflict within the administration over how Obama should respond. Philip Bump, Washington Post, "Trump again declines to criticize a questionable election," 20 Mar. 2018 On the face of it, Pruitt’s remarks are relatively anodyne. Tara Isabella Burton, Vox, "Scott Pruitt’s parting words to Trump: you are president “because of God’s providence”," 6 July 2018 Some of the more anodyne ideas, like getting rid of the Eastern and Western Conference construction and seeding playoffs 1-to-16, might improve the league but would likely do little to erode the inevitability of Warriors championships. Dan Wolken, USA TODAY, "The NBA isn't fair, you say? Maybe you're looking at it the wrong way," 4 July 2018 The germ of the conspiracy theory had to do with one of the most anodyne parts of my job. Benjamin Hart, Daily Intelligencer, "A Decade at Obama’s Side: An Interview With Ben Rhodes," 17 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

This might seem extreme: at first glance, the roundtable’s recommendations border on the anodyne. The Economist, "Big business is beginning to accept broader social responsibilities," 22 Aug. 2019 Even an anodyne softball game between Sanders’s staff and members of the press became a source of (minor) controversy. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, "Bernie Sanders Has a Plan to Save Journalism," 28 Aug. 2019 But environmental groups fear that Abe and the G-20 would produce an anodyne communique that failed to grasp the seriousness of the crisis facing the planet. Washington Post, "Japan aims for ‘harmony’ at G-20. Is it sidestepping climate change?," 28 June 2019 Andreas writes, dismayed by the critical desire for stylistic polish, for harmony and nuance, for an anodyne realism that manipulates the reader into positions of quasi-philosophical profundity. Merve Emre, The New York Review of Books, "‘Dismembered, Relocated, Rearranged’," 6 June 2019 Such films taught audiences how to keep Christmas in an anodyne manner that was designed not to give offense. Terry Teachout, WSJ, "How the Movies Invented Christmas," 20 Dec. 2018 During this dark time, vodka was Caron's anodyne; her histrionics were tabloid fodder; and a song of love was a sad song, indeed. Lili Rosenkranz, Town & Country, "T&C Family Album: Leslie Caron," 17 July 2014 Instead, they have been given a variety of anodyne, disposable names like Spotted Zebra (kids clothes), Good Brief (men’s underwear), Wag (dog food) and Rivet (home furnishings). New York Times, "Amazon, the Brand Buster," 23 June 2018 So as anodyne as the choice of artists might be, tonight’s Vance Joy show masks a surprisingly risky move for a pair of companies that are at the forefront of a larger conversation about privacy and user safety. Peter Rubin, WIRED, "With Venues, Oculus and Facebook Push Social VR Into New Territory," 30 May 2018

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about anodyne

Listen to Our Podcast about anodyne

Dictionary Entries near anodyne





anodyne necklace



Statistics for anodyne

Last Updated

17 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for anodyne

The first known use of anodyne was in 1543

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for anodyne



English Language Learners Definition of anodyne

formal : 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

More from Merriam-Webster on anodyne

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with anodyne

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for anodyne

Comments on anodyne

What made you want to look up anodyne? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


miscellaneous remnants or debris

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

The Exceptions Quiz III

  • one green toy robot amidst many red toy robots
  • Which of these words does not mean "nonsense"?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Add Diction

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!