nos·​trum | \ ˈnä-strəm How to pronounce nostrum (audio) \

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

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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.

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 Or that most ancient medicinal texts, whether Chinese, Persian, or Greek, refer to vinegar (from the French vin aigre and the Latin vinum acetum, or soured wine) as a nostrum? Tamar Adler, Vogue, "Acid Trip: How Small-Batch Vinegars Became a Kitchen Phenomenon," 10 Mar. 2021 Good-guy Stevie’s ambiguous love lyric is superficially in sync with Biden’s tentative nostrum. Armond White, National Review, "Stevie Wonder’s Wrong Song," 25 Nov. 2020 Medical patients resort to useless nostrums all the time. Los Angeles Times, "Column: Experts lose enthusiasm for chloroquine coronavirus treatment promoted by Trump," 13 Apr. 2020 Studies reporting behavioral improvement from treatment with turmeric and green tea vex skeptics of dietary nostrums. Washington Post, "Alzheimer’s Disease," 5 Dec. 2019 Yet Republicans show no doubts about their favorite nostrum. Steve Chapman,, "Column: Democrats and Republicans don’t disagree on everything: Both parties want to spend like there’s no tomorrow," 1 Nov. 2019 Claims for these items’s health benefits range from the fraudulent — in July, the FDA warned a Massachusetts company to stop advertising its CBD nostrums as treatments for cancer, dementia and Parkinson’s disease — to the extravagant. Peter Rowe, San Diego Union-Tribune, "CBDs: a ‘Wild West’ of wild claims," 20 Oct. 2019 Talmadge was a reactionary who had come to big business’ notice by promoting such crude anti-labor nostrums as concentration camps for strikers and moving on to attacks on New Deal reforms. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, "Column: The Democrats’ Wall Street wing hates Elizabeth Warren. They hated the New Deal too," 27 Sep. 2019 More books, based on the Course, followed at a regular clip — at least six have climbed the New York Times best-seller list — each offering nostrums on the curative power of thought. Sam Kestenbaum, New York Times, "The Curious Mystical Text Behind Marianne Williamson’s Presidential Bid," 5 July 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'nostrum.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of nostrum

1602, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for nostrum

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

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Time Traveler for nostrum

Time Traveler

The first known use of nostrum was in 1602

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Last Updated

23 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Nostrum.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for nostrum



English Language Learners Definition of nostrum

formal : a suggested solution for a problem that will probably not succeed
old-fashioned : something that is used for treating illness, pain, etc., but that is not an accepted and effective medicine


nos·​trum | \ ˈnäs-trəm How to pronounce nostrum (audio) \

Medical Definition of nostrum

: a medicine of secret composition recommended by its preparer but usually without scientific proof of its effectiveness

More from Merriam-Webster on nostrum

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for nostrum

Nglish: Translation of nostrum for Spanish Speakers

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