nostrum

noun
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

Cohen and DeLong titled their book Concrete Economics to distinguish their ideas from the purely abstract, empirically untethered nostrums of the unfettered free market. Win Mccormack, The New Republic, "The Green New Deal: A Capitalist Plot (Part 1)," 20 June 2019 Storr’s main focus, though, is on some nostrums that emerged in the 1960s, especially from the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, Calif. Anthony Gottlieb, New York Times, "How We Got to Be So Self-Absorbed: The Long Story," 21 June 2018 In short, a substantial share of right-leaning voters in this country were willing to embrace, or at least countenance, a brand of conservative politics with fewer free-market nostrums and more appeals to potent sociocultural anxieties. Osita Nwanevu, The New Yorker, "Conservative Nationalism Is Trumpism for Intellectuals," 21 July 2019 America’s present need is not heroics, but healing; not nostrums, but normalcy, not revolution but restoration. Daniel Henninger, WSJ, "Trump’s ‘Sleepy Joe’ Problem," 19 June 2019 Cohen and DeLong titled their book Concrete Economics to distinguish their ideas from the purely abstract, empirically untethered nostrums of the unfettered free market. Win Mccormack, The New Republic, "The Green New Deal: A Capitalist Plot (Part 1)," 20 June 2019 The implications for Social Security reform nostrums are major. Michael Hiltzik, latimes.com, "More evidence that raising the Social Security retirement age is no problem for the rich, but tough on the poor," 25 Apr. 2018 Storr’s main focus, though, is on some nostrums that emerged in the 1960s, especially from the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, Calif. Anthony Gottlieb, New York Times, "How We Got to Be So Self-Absorbed: The Long Story," 21 June 2018 This good-governance nostrum, like many, is case-specific. Holman W. Jenkins, WSJ, "The Last Temptation of Elon Musk," 22 May 2018

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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Statistics for nostrum

Last Updated

24 Aug 2019

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Time Traveler for nostrum

The first known use of nostrum was in 1602

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More Definitions for nostrum

nostrum

noun

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

nostrum

noun
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

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More from Merriam-Webster on nostrum

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for nostrum

Spanish Central: Translation of nostrum

Nglish: Translation of nostrum for Spanish Speakers

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