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.
April 6th, 2016
Episode 496 of 797 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 6, 2016 is: mithridate \MITH-ruh-dayt\ noun : an antidote against poison; especially : a confection held to be effective against poison Examples: "What he wanted, in effect, was a universal antidote, which medical science has for yearsreferred to as a mithridate." — Harold L. Klawans, Newton's Madness, 1990 "Is enough known about the mechanisms of poisoning to construct effective antidotes, or even a universalantidote(a truemithridate), a panacea to all toxic ills?" — Rosemary H. Waring et al., Molecules of Death, 2007 Did you know? Mithridates the Great was the tyrannical king of Pontus (an ancient kingdom in Northeast Asia Minor) from 120 to 63 B.C.E. He was killed by a Gallic mercenary whose services he himself engaged after failing to poison himself following an insurrection by his troops. Supposedly, his suicide was unsuccessful because he had made himself immune to poison by taking small doses of it since childhood in an attempt to avoid the fate of assassination by poison. The story of Mithridates' tolerance is behind the English word mithridate, which dates to the early 16th century, as well as the word mithridatism, defined as "tolerance to a poison acquired by taking gradually increased doses of it."