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 Here in Talukan, dozens of merchants openly trade different grades of opium in a busy new market that has sprung up since the Taliban’s Aug. 15 victory. WSJ, 21 Nov. 2021 The other cornucopia that crackpot foreign-aid plans opened up was the production of opium. Steve H. Hanke, National Review, 1 Sep. 2021 Matheson, the nephew of James Matheson, one of the founders of Jardine Matheson, made a fortune in the China opium trade, and retired back to Scotland. Joseph V Micallef, Forbes, 6 Nov. 2021 The Taliban has funded its fighting for decades with illicit opium trade, smuggling and black market mining operations, Runde says, but those criminal revenues aren’t enough to fund the country. Brian Bennett, Time, 23 Sep. 2021 Felbab-Brown said there is precedent for a country eradicating its opium trade: Thailand. David Pierson, Los Angeles Times, 29 Aug. 2021 And even at the height of the American troop presence, the insurgents were able to keep a growing stream of recruits coming both from Afghanistan and Pakistan, fueled in part by rising profits from the opium trade. New York Times, 23 Aug. 2021 Two disastrous decisions in Helmand -- first to invade it and second to try to destroy the opium trade -- guaranteed that a peaceful farming province producing gigantic wealth would become a battleground and graveyard for foreign forces. Sam Kiley, CNN, 15 Aug. 2021 The book has little to say, however, about the major choices for governments and individuals that might flow from a more informed view of opium, caffeine, and mescaline. BostonGlobe.com, 15 July 2021

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, borrowed from Latin, "latex of the opium poppy, drug made from this latex," borrowed from Greek ópion, diminutive of opós "plant juice, latex," going back (with generalization of Ionic loss of h-) to Indo-European *sokwo-, whence also Old Church Slavic sokŭ "juice," Lithuanian sakaĩ "resin"

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

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Last Updated

25 Nov 2021

Cite this Entry

“Opium.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/opium. Accessed 3 Dec. 2021.

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More Definitions for opium



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

More from Merriam-Webster on 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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