of·​fi·​ci·​nal ə-ˈfi-sə-nᵊl How to pronounce officinal (audio)
ˌȯ-fə-ˈsī-nᵊl How to pronounce officinal (audio)
: medicinal
a monograph on officinal flora

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Officinal is a word applied in medicine to plants and herbs that are used in medicinal preparations. For most of the 19th century, it was the standard word used by the United States Pharmacopeia to refer to the drugs, chemicals, and medicinal preparations that they recognized, but by the 1870s it was replaced by official in this context. Despite this supersession, you still can find a healthy dose of officinal in the pharmaceutical field, where it is used today as a word describing preparations that are regularly kept in stock at pharmacies. Officinal was derived from the Medieval Latin noun officina, a word for the storeroom of a monastery in which provisions and medicines were kept. In Latin, officina means "workshop."

Examples of officinal in a Sentence

the discovery of officinal plants that continues to this day

Word History


borrowed from New Latin officīnālis "used as a medicine (of plants)," from officīna "apothecary's shop" (going back to Latin, "workshop," contraction of opificīna, from opific-, opifex "craftsman, artificer" —from opi-, base of opis, *ops "power, ability" and oper-, opus "work, effort" + -fic-, -fex, derivative of facere "to make, do, bring about"— + -īna, suffix of place) + Latin -ālis -al entry 1 — more at opus, do entry 1

First Known Use

1769, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of officinal was in 1769


Dictionary Entries Near officinal

Cite this Entry

“Officinal.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Apr. 2024.

Medical Definition


1 of 2 adjective
of·​fi·​ci·​nal ə-ˈfis-ᵊn-əl How to pronounce officinal (audio) ȯ- How to pronounce officinal (audio)
ä-; ˌȯf-ə-ˈsīn-ᵊl,
: available without special preparation or compounding
officinal medicine
compare magistral
of a plant : medicinal
officinal herbs
officinal rhubarb


2 of 2 noun
: an officinal drug, medicine, or plant
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