mith·​ri·​date | \ ˈmith-rə-ˌdāt How to pronounce mithridate (audio) \

Definition of mithridate

: an antidote against poison especially : a confection held to be effective against poison

The History Behind Mithridate

Mithridates the Great was the tyrannical king of Pontus (an ancient kingdom in Northeast Asia Minor) from 120 to 63 B.C.E. He was killed by a Gallic mercenary whose services he himself engaged after failing to poison himself following an insurrection by his troops. Supposedly, his suicide was unsuccessful because he had made himself immune to poison by taking small doses of it since childhood in an attempt to avoid the fate of assassination by poison. The story of Mithridates' tolerance is behind the English word mithridate, which dates to the early 16th century, as well as the word mithridatism, defined as "tolerance to a poison acquired by taking gradually increased doses of it."

First Known Use of mithridate

1528, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for mithridate

Medieval Latin mithridatum, from Late Latin mithridatium, from Latin, dogtooth violet (used as an antidote), from Greek mithridation, from Mithridatēs Mithridates VI

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about mithridate

Listen to Our Podcast about mithridate

Statistics for mithridate

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for mithridate

The first known use of mithridate was in 1528

See more words from the same year

More from Merriam-Webster on mithridate

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with mithridate

Comments on mithridate

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


one from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Musical Words Quiz

  • gramophone
  • Which word describes a musical performance marked by the absence of instrumental accompaniment?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!


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!