Definition of nostrum
1 : 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
2 : a usually questionable remedy or scheme : panacea an audience eager to believe he had found the nostrum for all of society's ills — Warren Sloat
nostrum was our Word of the Day on 11/27/2014. Hear the podcast!
Examples of nostrum in a Sentence
politicians repeating all the usual nostrums about the economy
using garlic as a nostrum to prevent disease
Did You Know?
In those thrilling days of yesteryear, declared a 1990 Consumer Reports article, "patent-medicine pitchmen and traveling salesmen blanketed the country, hustling notions and nostrums to gullible settlers." The word nostrum has often been so 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 1602, and comes from the Latin noster, meaning "our" or "ours." Some people 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.
NOSTRUM Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of nostrum for English Language Learners
: a suggested solution for a problem that will probably not succeed
: something that is used for treating illness, pain, etc., but that is not an accepted and effective medicine
Medical Definition of nostrum
: a medicine of secret composition recommended by its preparer but usually without scientific proof of its effectiveness
Seen and Heard
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