opi·​um | \ˈō-pē-əm \

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

Pathana Boupha Shop: Packed with Laotian and Southeast Asian antiques and vintage pieces, including silver hill-tribe jewelry, bronze Buddhas, wooden statues, and brass opium weights. Hanya Yanagihara, Condé Nast Traveler, "Why Luang Prabang Is the Ideal Southeast Asian City," 20 Nov. 2018 All around the developing world, socialism is understood as a false promise, an ideological opium that repressive elites use to retain and expand power. James Freeman, WSJ, "Capitalism: Still Working," 15 Nov. 2018 Hang out in the opium recovery ward and find out what people are really thinking. Eric Johnson, Recode, "The media is responsible for President Trump and it still hasn’t learned from 2016, says Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi," 18 Oct. 2018 In 2014, Mexican opium production increased by 50 percent, the New York Times reported. Hayley Krischer, Marie Claire, "How Heroin Came for Middle-Class Moms," 20 Aug. 2018 In the 1840s, opium ceased to be the primary driver of clipper-ship design, replaced by gold. Randall Fuller, WSJ, "‘Barons of the Sea’ Review: Rigging the Market," 19 July 2018 His opium addiction and depression had taken a heavy toll on him, leading to a separation from his wife, the loss of motivation to keep writing and a poor reputation among his friends. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "Poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Casket Rediscovered in Former Wine Cellar," 18 Apr. 2018 In 1813 the East India Company, a British private empire involved in opium production, among other things, lost its long-standing legal monopoly over trade with India. The Economist, "History’s biggest firms," 5 July 2018 None of these incidents had anything to do with opium, but in 1831 the drug dealers tried to provoke a war when Chinese officials trampled their shrub garden and insulted a portrait of King George IV. Ian Morris, New York Times, "The Opium War and the Humiliation of China," 2 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

1 Dec 2018

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

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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 \

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 \

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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