nos·​trum ˈnä-strəm How to pronounce nostrum (audio)
: a medicine of secret composition recommended by its preparer but usually without scientific proof of its effectiveness
… is put to work at county fairs, promoting a quack nostrum for pain relief.Patrick McGrath
: a usually questionable remedy or scheme : panacea
an audience eager to believe he had found the nostrum for all of society's illsWarren Sloat

Did you know?

"Whether there was real efficacy in these nostrums, and whether their author himself had faith in them, is more than can safely be said," wrote 19th-century American writer Nathaniel Hawthorne, "but, at all events, the public believed in them." The word nostrum has often been linked to quack medicine and false hopes for miracle cures, but there's nothing deceitful about its etymology. It has been a part of English since at least the early 17th century, and it comes from the Latin noster, meaning "our" or "ours." Some think that specially prepared medicinal concoctions came to be called nostrums because their purveyors marketed them as "our own" remedy. In other words, the use of nostrum emphasized that such a potion was unique or exclusive to the pitchman peddling it.

Examples of nostrum in a Sentence

politicians repeating all the usual nostrums about the economy using garlic as a nostrum to prevent disease
Recent Examples on the Web This is a guy who has promoted nostrums that science has shown to be utterly useless against COVID, such as the anti-parasitic ivermectin and the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 15 Sep. 2023 Most central and eastern European countries had already succumbed to authoritarianism or different variations of fascism, and the Great Depression suggested that the activist solutions implemented by both extremes were better than the feeble nostrums liberalism could offer. Shlomo Avineri, Foreign Affairs, 1 Jan. 2012 Christie’s other nostrum is to raise the retirement age. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 10 July 2023 The essay suffers from the same refusal to face facts that led the United States to launch abortive wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya and reflects the same devotion to ideological nostrums that convinces Washington, time and again, to brand dictators as reformers and allies as pariahs. Michael Oren, Foreign Affairs, 31 May 2023 Marketers of economic nostrums such as cryptocurrency and gold investments don’t win customers by proclaiming that happy days are here again. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 6 July 2023 Worthless nostrums such as hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin have been promoted based on transparently bogus evidence. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 11 Apr. 2023 But writers such as Holiday attempt to transform Stoicism into an antibiotic or nostrum. Tom Bissell, Harper’s Magazine , 10 Apr. 2023 Perhaps there is a more natural nostrum – partial and insufficient, but helpful nonetheless – closer to hand. Pavel Goldstein, Discover Magazine, 17 Jan. 2018 See More

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

Word History


Latin, neuter of noster our, ours, from nos we — more at us

First Known Use

1602, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of nostrum was in 1602


Dictionary Entries Near nostrum

Cite this Entry

“Nostrum.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Sep. 2023.

Medical Definition


nos·​trum ˈnäs-trəm How to pronounce nostrum (audio)
: a medicine of secret composition recommended by its preparer but usually without scientific proof of its effectiveness

More from Merriam-Webster on nostrum

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