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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"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 episode of What’s Ahead lays out why Schumer’s nostrum is the economic equivalent of doctors who centuries ago thought bleeding patients was a great cure for all sorts of ailments. Steve Forbes, Forbes, 3 May 2022 Musk himself has been a purveyor of damaging misinformation and disinformation on Twitter — promoting the useless anti-COVID nostrum hydroxychloroquine as well as economically dubious cryptocurrencies, for example. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 28 Apr. 2022 The old nostrum that France is ungovernable may be tested again. New York Times, 23 Apr. 2022 The alternative-energy nostrum is make-believe, as are the other administration excuses for the sharp increase in gasoline prices. Benjamin Zycher, National Review, 17 Mar. 2022 Ivermectin, that nostrum assiduously promoted by anti-vaccine advocates and conspiracy-mongers, is utterly useless against COVID-19. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 31 Mar. 2022 Alas, Goop's success is yet another example of how hawking misinformation, pseudoscience, and nostrum to the disaffected is extremely lucrative. Beth Mole, Ars Technica, 2 Feb. 2022 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, 10 Mar. 2021 Good-guy Stevie’s ambiguous love lyric is superficially in sync with Biden’s tentative nostrum. Armond White, National Review, 25 Nov. 2020 See More

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.

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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The first known use of nostrum was in 1602

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Last Updated

10 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Nostrum.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for nostrum


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

Nglish: Translation of nostrum for Spanish Speakers


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