Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.
November 11th, 2014
Episode 15 of 923 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for November 11, 2014 is: anodyne \AN-uh-dyne\ adjective 1 : serving to alleviate pain 2 : not likely to offend or arouse tensions Examples: The group's latest album is a fairly anodyne affair; it contains a number of lively tunes that are easy on the ears, but which play it far too safe to ever be anything more than passing amusements. "British comics in the 1950s were pale imitations of American ones. Many were anodyne: the first two prosecutions under a 1955 law prohibiting 'harmful publications' for children were both in 1970." The Economist, May 10, 2014 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.