opi·​um | \ ˈō-pē-əm How to pronounce opium (audio) \

Definition of opium

1 : a bitter brownish addictive narcotic drug that consists of the dried latex obtained from immature seed capsules of the opium poppy
2 : something having an effect like that of opium

Examples of opium in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

The numbers are stark: At the market’s peak in 2017, the farmers were selling their opium resin for as much as $590 per pound. Kirk Semple, New York Times, "Mexican Opium Prices Plummet, Driving Poppy Farmers to Migrate," 7 July 2019 The candidates who have admitted to taking drugs are: Michael Gove (cocaine), Matt Hancock (marijuana), Jeremy Hunt (marijuana), Boris Johnson (marijuana, and has alluded to having taken cocaine), Dominic Raab (marijuana) and Rory Stewart (opium). Billy Perrigo, Time, "6 Out of 7 Candidates for U.K. Prime Minister Admitted to Using Drugs. Here's Why It Might Not Matter," 13 June 2019 In the late 1820s a Mughal scholar named Khair ud-Din, who was working for the East India Company at its opium factory in Patna, began work on a monumental history. William Dalrymple, The New York Review of Books, "Painting the Cosmic Ocean," 6 June 2019 What has him and other farmers in the region desperate is a huge drop in the prices that local drug gangs pay for a kilogram of opium paste. Mark Stevenson, Fox News, "Mexico opium poppy growers see price drop, turn to marijuana," 22 June 2018 From the opium wars of the 19th century to the globalization of trade more recently, the Port of Hong Kong has held an unassailable place. Joanne Chiu, WSJ, "Hong Kong Port Alliance Challenged by Cargo Owners," 13 Jan. 2019 The rosewater came from a far-away group of Persian farmers who turned over their opium-trade poppy fields to rose production. Laura Regensdorf, Vogue, "This All-Natural Skin-Care Line Comes in the Most Striking Glass Apothecary Bottles Yet," 12 Dec. 2018 Farmers in Guerrero say prices for opium paste have dropped to unprofitable levels because drug cartels are substituting it for cheaper, easier to obtain synthetic opioids like fentanyl. Mark Stevenson, The Seattle Times, "Mexico sees 16 percent rise in murders in 1st half of 2018," 23 July 2018 While there were no legal restrictions on opium in the U.S. at the time, the drug had been banned in China by imperial edict in the late 18th century on account of its disastrous social consequences. Randall Fuller, WSJ, "‘Barons of the Sea’ Review: Rigging the Market," 19 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'opium.' 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 opium

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for opium

Middle English, from Latin, from Greek opion, from diminutive of opos sap

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Statistics for opium

Last Updated

14 Jul 2019

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Time Traveler for opium

The first known use of opium was in the 14th century

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English Language Learners Definition of opium

: a powerful illegal drug that is made from a type of poppy


opi·​um | \ ˈō-pē-əm How to pronounce opium (audio) \

Kids Definition of opium

: a bitter brownish narcotic drug that is the dried juice of a poppy of Europe and Asia


opi·​um | \ ˈō-pē-əm How to pronounce opium (audio) \

Medical Definition of opium

: a highly addictive drug that consists of the dried milky juice from the seed capsules of the opium poppy obtained from incisions made in the unripe capsules of the plant, that has a brownish yellow color, a faint smell, and a bitter and acrid taste, that is a stimulant narcotic usually producing a feeling of well-being, hallucinations, and drowsiness terminating in coma or death if the dose is excessive, that was formerly used in medicine to soothe pain but is now often replaced by derivative alkaloids (as morphine or codeine) or synthetic substitutes, and that is smoked illicitly as an intoxicant with harmful effects

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More from Merriam-Webster on opium

Spanish Central: Translation of opium

Nglish: Translation of opium for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of opium for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about opium

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