Word of the Day : February 10, 2014

anodyne

play
adjective AN-uh-dyne

Definition

1 : serving to alleviate pain

2 : not likely to offend or arouse tensions : innocuous

Did You Know?

"Anodyne" came to English via Latin from Greek "anōdynos" ("without pain"), and it has been used as both an adjective and a noun ("something that relieves pain") since the 16th century. It has sometimes been used of things that dull or lull the senses and render painful experiences less so. Edmund Burke used it this way, for example, in 1790 when he referred to flattery as an "anodyne draft of oblivion" that renders one (in this particular case, the deposed king Louis XVI) forgetful of the flatterer's true feelings. In the 1930s, a newer second sense began appearing in our vocabulary. Now, in addition to describing things that dull pain, "anodyne" can also refer to that which doesn't cause discomfort in the first place.


Examples

I felt nervous in their presence and couldn't muster anything more than an anodyne question about the weather.

"The cuisine of Spain is largely misunderstood in the United States, where what passes for Spanish food is all too often an anodyne assemblage of yellow rice, green sauce and red peppers." - From a restaurant review by Erica Marcus in Newsday (New York), January 3, 2014



Test Your Memory

What word completes this sentence from a former Word of the Day piece: "The new treatment is regarded as promising but __________ with potential side effects"? The answer is …


Podcast


More Words of the Day

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!