Definition of opium in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ˈōpēəm/


A reddish-brown heavy-scented addictive drug prepared from the juice of the opium poppy, used as a narcotic and in medicine as an analgesic.
Example sentences
  • Surgeons would attempt to stupefy the patient with alcohol, opium, or morphia, but with little effect.
  • Both are controlled drugs, and staff handed the morphine and opium over to the Home Office Drugs Inspectorate.
  • These suggestions were based on evidence that showed that opium was addictive.


the opium of the people (or masses)

see the opiate of the masses at opiate.
Example sentences
  • In a way, the lottery has become, as Mr Marx would have said, ‘the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of heartless conditions, the opium of the people.’
  • Some papers are now part of the showbiz industry and for many, celebrity rather than religion is now the opium of the people.
  • It's almost like the opium of the people that Karl Marx was talking about a century ago.


Late Middle English: via Latin from Greek opion 'poppy juice', from opos 'juice', from an Indo-European root meaning 'water'.

  • The name of this drug comes ultimately from the Greek word opion ‘poppy juice’. The opium of the people is something regarded as giving people a false sense of security and contentment. The phrase originated as a direct translation of the German Opium des Volks, as used by the founder of modern Communism, Karl Marx, in 1843–44.

Words that rhyme with opium

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.