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 Kelly, Cienfuegos and other Mexican top brass were present at a July 2017 operation in which the military destroyed five fields of opium poppies, the Mexican defense ministry said. Patrick J. Mcdonnell, Los Angeles Times, "Former Mexican defense chief will return home a free man after U.S. drops drug charges," 19 Nov. 2020 His ship, the Pallas, returned to the city in 1785 loaded with cargo, including canisters of teas, silk umbrellas, opium, table sets of blue china, satins and wallpaper. Yvonne Wenger, baltimoresun.com, "Hundreds sign online petition to remove O’Donnell statue from Canton square," 25 Oct. 2020 Classic poisons like hemlock, nightshade, aconite, foxglove, opium, and strychnine were used to treat a range of ails, from the humble head cold to heart conditions, and even worn as makeup. Meg Neal, Popular Mechanics, "Nature's Toxic Gifts: The Deadly Story of Poison," 4 Oct. 2020 Acetic anhydride is the only chemical required to make heroin from the sap of opium poppies. Michael Smith, Bloomberg.com, "Avantor Stops Sale of Chemical in Mexico Used to Make Heroin," 15 Sep. 2020 In the late 1960s, two notorious opium traffickers from mainland China founded a newspaper in Hong Kong. Cnn Staff, CNN, "Two fugitive opium dealers, a media mogul and an alleged smoking gun video: the story of a Hong Kong newspaper feud," 4 Sep. 2020 The trove of roughly 200 items includes ceramics, tobacco and opium pipes, leather goods, bottles, and home goods, reports Tony Moore for the Brisbane Times. Alex Fox, Smithsonian Magazine, "Archaeologists Unearth Trove of Artifacts From 19th-Century Australian Chinatown," 29 June 2020 Browning herself struggled with an addiction to opium. Tana Wojczuk, refinery29.com, "Almost 200 Years Ago, This Queer, All-Women Art Collective Took The World By Storm," 6 Aug. 2020 Radical Brisbane notes that the neighborhood featured a cluster of brothels, as well as bars, opium dens and gambling rooms. Alex Fox, Smithsonian Magazine, "Archaeologists Unearth Trove of Artifacts From 19th-Century Australian Chinatown," 29 June 2020

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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Time Traveler for opium

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for opium

Last Updated

24 Nov 2020

Cite this Entry

“Opium.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/opium. Accessed 30 Nov. 2020.

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More Definitions for opium


How to pronounce opium (audio)

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

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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