theriac

noun

the·​ri·​ac ˈthir-ē-ˌak How to pronounce theriac (audio)
1
2

Did you know?

A Theriac for What Ails You

There really is no such thing as a single remedy for all that ails us. But that hasn't kept English speakers from creating not just a single word, but several words, that mean "cure-all": catholicon, elixir, nostrum, panacea, and theriac. When we first used theriac, it meant "an antidote for poison"—for any and all poisons, that is. That's how our Roman and Greek forebears used their theriaca and thēriakē, which derive ultimately from thēr, the Greek word for "wild animal." The first theriac was supposedly created by the first-century Greek physician Andromachus, whose concoction consisted of some 70 drugs pulverized with honey. Medieval physicians created even more elaborate theriacs to dose a plague-dreading populace, for whom the possibility of a cure-all didn't seem too wild a notion at all.

Example Sentences

the wizard's attempts to concoct a theriac for the king came to naught
Recent Examples on the Web Zinc lozenges suddenly became the theriac to cure all ills; masks and hand-sanitizer, the ambergris and zedoary to ward off infection. Spencer Strub, The New York Review of Books, 25 Mar. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'theriac.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History

Etymology

New Latin theriaca

First Known Use

1568, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of theriac was in 1568

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Dictionary Entries Near theriac

Cite this Entry

“Theriac.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/theriac. Accessed 1 Feb. 2023.

Medical Definition

theriac

noun
the·​ri·​ac ˈthir-ē-ˌak How to pronounce theriac (audio)
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