mithridate

noun
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

Learn More About mithridate

Time Traveler for mithridate

Time Traveler

The first known use of mithridate was in 1528

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast About mithridate

Dictionary Entries Near mithridate

Mithraic

mithridate

mithridate mustard

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for mithridate

Cite this Entry

“Mithridate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mithridate. Accessed 13 Aug. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More from Merriam-Webster on mithridate

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for mithridate

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Challenging Words You Should Know

  • hedgehog reading a book
  • Often used to describe “the march of time,” what does inexorable mean?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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