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

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The first known use of mithridate was in 1528

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Cite this Entry

“Mithridate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Jan. 2021.

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