: a harmless substance that when taken by a patient is associated with harmful effects due to negative expectations or the psychological condition of the patient
Did You Know?
Nocent has been in the English language as a word for harmful since the 15th century. It comes from Latin nocēre, meaning "to harm." Latin nocebo is a close relative that means "I will be harmful" and that contrasts with placebo, meaning "I shall please." People in medicine began using placebo for inert preparations prescribed solely for a patient's mental relief, and not for relieving a disorder, in the late 18th century. As doctors began to observe the effects of placebos, some noticed that the harmless preparations actually sometimes caused detrimental effects on the patient's health. English speakers began using the word nocebo for substances causing such adverse reactions in patients in 1961.
"Medical researchers know about nocebos but are often at a loss how to deal with them. For example, it would be wrong not to tell people about possible side effects of a medicine, yet the more they are educated about side effects, the more side effects they will get." — Alan Christianson, The Huffington Post, 22 Apr. 2015
"For example: Nocebos can induce itch or pain in research subjects who believe that these will be the expected results. Interestingly, placebos and nocebos yield opposite effects upon levels of dopamine and opioid neurotransmitters in specific areas of the brain." — Dennis Rosen, The Pacific Standard, 9 Sept. 2014
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Word Family Quiz
Unscramble the letters to create an adjective that is derived from Latin nocēre and can mean "harmless": CUUSNIONO.VIEW THE ANSWER
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