cu·​ra·​re kyu̇-ˈrär-ē How to pronounce curare (audio)
variants or less commonly curari
: a complex poison of South American Indians used on arrow tips that causes muscle relaxation and paralysis, includes various substances of plant and animal origin, and typically contains an alkaloid extracted from one of two South American vines (Strychnos toxifera of the family Loganiaceae or Chondodendron tomentosum of the family Menispermaceae) as the primary active ingredient
: an extract containing one of the primary alkaloid constituents (such as tubocurarine) of curare

Examples of curare in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Like their ancestors, the Yanomami hunt for wild boar and monkeys, using arrows tipped with poison from the curare plant. Luciana Magalhaes, WSJ, 27 Sep. 2020 Awareness became a clinical problem in the 1940s with the introduction of the paralyzing drug curare. Henry Marsh, New York Times, 3 Jan. 2018 Poison frogs, also known as poison dart frogs, belong to a diverse group that is commonly associated with curare and other toxins, with which indigenous people have historically laced their hunting spears. National Geographic, 18 Jan. 2017

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

Word History


Portuguese & Spanish curare, from Carib kurari

First Known Use

1777, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of curare was in 1777

Dictionary Entries Near curare

Cite this Entry

“Curare.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Nov. 2023.

Kids Definition


cu·​ra·​re k(y)u̇-ˈrär-ē How to pronounce curare (audio)
: a dried product in water especially of a tropical American vine used to poison arrow tips and in medicine to relax muscles

Medical Definition


variants also curari
: a dried aqueous extract especially of a vine (as Strychnos toxifera of the family Loganiaceae or Chondodendron tomentosum of the family Menispermaceae) that produces muscle relaxation and is used in arrow poisons by South American Indians compare tubocurarine

More from Merriam-Webster on curare

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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