Definition of tonic in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ˈtänik/


1A medicinal substance taken to give a feeling of vigor or well-being.
Example sentences
  • Nineteenth-century medicine vendors often peddled tonics as a cure-all for symptoms as varied as a mild cough or severe rash.
  • My new eating plan included a herbal tonic to complement my diet and encourage general well-being.
  • She took herbal tonics to regain physical strength.
stimulant, restorative, refresher, medicine
informal pick-me-up
Medicine  analeptic
1.1Something with an invigorating effect: being needed is a tonic for someone at my age
More example sentences
  • The effect is like a tonic, and the fact that her character - and others similarly drawn - are all still very funny is a tribute to the director's talents.
  • Laughter is an invigorating tonic that heightens and brightens the mood, gently releasing us from tensions and social constraints.
  • Love it or hate it, you're sure to find it an invigorating tonic.
stimulant, boost, fillip
informal shot in the arm, pick-me-up
2 short for tonic water.
Example sentences
  • However, compared to diet cola or sugar-charged tonic or lemonade, soda water wins by a mile.
  • They used to give us freebie haircuts in exchange for endless vodkas and tonics.
  • Some tonics have less sodium than club soda or many soft drinks.
3 Music The first note in a scale that, in conventional harmony, provides the keynote of a piece of music.
Example sentences
  • Britten's score breaks off at bar 30, just at the moment of the return to the tonic.
  • The first of these sentences, bars 1 to 9, unequivocally secures D as the tonic.
  • The music doesn't seem ‘anchored’ in a key, even though you can almost always find a tonic.


1Giving a feeling of vigor or well-being; invigorating.
Example sentences
  • The Chinese sometimes include zhu ling (they use the sclerotium rather than the fruiting body) as an ingredient in herbal tonic formulas.
  • But it is neither a variation on one of the old iron supplements nor is it a food, although its adherents say it has tonic properties and you do apply it to the body.
  • Digestive tonic properties and early experimental findings that its long-term use promotes the heart and vascular system are other feathers in the cap for this herb.
2 Music Relating to or denoting the first degree of a scale.
Example sentences
  • At first, whirling scales and broken arpeggios scamper across the keyboard, hopefully tethered by tonic pedal notes in the bass.
  • After an unusually long and chromatic development the recapitulation begins in the tonic minor.
  • Indeed, the tonic D, which has held sway over much of the movement's main tonal and harmonic thrust, is thrown into some degree of crisis.
3 Phonetics Denoting or relating to the syllable within a tone group that has greatest prominence, because it carries the main change of pitch.
Example sentences
  • Their usual intonation pattern is a rising tone on and after the tonic syllable, but, when rhetorical or emphatic, they are said with a falling tone.
4Relating to or restoring normal tone to muscles or other organs.
Example sentences
  • The places that we see, these slow tonic muscle fibres, are almost the exact places where the muscles are shaping the surface of the tongue, and shaping them to do the shapes that we know are producing our speech.
  • The former is designated a slow twitch muscle fiber, and the latter as slow tonic muscle fiber.
  • Unphosphorylated, attached cross-bridges in tonic mammalian smooth muscle have a very slow rate of release of ADP.
4.1 Physiology Relating to, denoting, or producing continuous muscular contraction.
Example sentences
  • This tonic contraction is mostly myogenic, due to special properties of this smooth muscle, but it is modified by excitatory and inhibitory nerves.
  • This tonic contraction defines the lower esophageal sphincter.
  • This illustrates the essential place of the closure of the pylorus by tonic contraction in the prevention of such reflux.



Pronunciation: /-ik(ə)lē/
Example sentences
  • The lung, however, does not become inflamed or infected, in part because alveolar and airway macrophages express a number of antiinflammatory molecules that tonically suppress pulmonary inflammation.
  • In Hirschsprung disease, the aganglionic colon remains spastic or tonically enhanced and unable to relax.
  • The EDL is adapted for relatively infrequent bursts of phasic activity, whereas the soleus is tonically activated to maintain posture.


Mid 17th century: from French tonique, from Greek tonikos 'of or for stretching', from tonos (see tone).

Words that rhyme with tonic

anachronic, animatronic, bionic, Brythonic, bubonic, Byronic, canonic, carbonic, catatonic, chalcedonic, chronic, colonic, conic, cyclonic, daemonic, demonic, diatonic, draconic, electronic, embryonic, euphonic, harmonic, hegemonic, histrionic, homophonic, hypersonic, iconic, ionic, ironic, isotonic, laconic, macaronic, Masonic, Miltonic, mnemonic, monotonic, moronic, Napoleonic, philharmonic, phonic, Platonic, Plutonic, polyphonic, quadraphonic, sardonic, saxophonic, siphonic, Slavonic, sonic, stereophonic, subsonic, subtonic, symphonic, tectonic, Teutonic, thermionic, transonic, ultrasonic

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: ton·ic

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.