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

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 In between Shanghai was a sprawling, hyperenergetic demimonde of opium dens, gambling casinos, and illicit dance halls. Monitor Staff, The Christian Science Monitor, "10 best books of July: the Monitor's picks," 12 July 2018 In what may be the largest opium bust in California history, Monterey County sheriff’s investigators seized more than 34,000 pounds of opium poppies around the county. Sophie Haigney, San Francisco Chronicle, "34,000 pounds of opium poppies seized in Monterey County," 3 June 2018 Afghanistan is the world’s largest producer of opium, which is refined into morphine and heroin. Michael M. Phillips, WSJ, "U.S. Attacks Taliban’s Source of Funds in Afghanistan," 30 May 2018 At age 6, Adul already had escaped a territory in Myanmar known for guerrilla warfare, opium cultivation and methamphetamine trafficking. Hannah Beech, The Seattle Times, "For some Thai soccer-team members, cave ordeal was only their latest test," 10 July 2018 At age 6, Adul had already escaped a territory in Myanmar known for guerrilla warfare, opium cultivation and methamphetamine trafficking. Hannah Beech, New York Times, "Stateless and Poor, Some Boys in Thai Cave Had Already Beaten Long Odds," 10 July 2018 Border Patrol agents turned him, the SUV and the opium paste over to the Drug Enforcement Agency. Alex Riggins, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Border Patrol agents find opium paste taped 'like implants' to suspected smuggler's buttocks," 9 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

6 Oct 2018

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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 \

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

Comments on opium

What made you want to look up opium? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


exaggeratedly or childishly emotional

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