Definition of tonic in English:



  • 1A medicinal substance taken to give a feeling of vigour or well-being.

    • ‘It fights cholesterol, and is used as a tonic and a laxative.’
    • ‘This practice, to a large extent, is responsible for the sale of many useless tonics and drugs without any medical practitioner's prescription.’
    • ‘Herbal tonics have the ability to nourish the nervous system and enhance resilience; they are excellent when one is tense, anxious or depressed, tired and run down.’
    • ‘This clinic uses a special tonic that is meant to stall the growth of the cancer cells.’
    • ‘The treatment prescribed for such phenomena included complete rest, massage, various tonics and special diets, sometimes even electroshock therapy.’
    • ‘‘Digestive enzymes,’ vitamins, and tonics were frequently dispensed as ‘psychological medicine’.’
    • ‘Practitioners of Chinese medicine use it as a tonic and restorative to promote health and longevity.’
    • ‘Milk Thistle has a long history as a medicinal plant which can be used as a liver stimulant, for detoxification and as a liver tonic.’
    • ‘Hawkers of such chicanery have made claims that youth and restored body functions could be brought about through nerve tonics and elixirs of life.’
    • ‘She took herbal tonics to regain physical strength.’
    • ‘Asian, American and Siberian ginsengs are the most renowned herbal tonics in Chinese medicine.’
    • ‘In the early 1900s it became the main stimulant drug used in most of the tonics and elixirs that were developed to treat a wide variety of illnesses.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Herbal medicines and tonics called jamu are both home blended and mass produced.’
    • ‘Patent medicine ads for ague tonics and liver pills filled the back pages of local agricultural publications.’
    • ‘Its reputation for stimulating the immune system makes it an excellent tonic for treating coughs, colds, flu and other infections, as well as for easing allergies.’
    • ‘Jatamansi is an effective sedative and brain tonic, enhancing concentration and memory.’
    • ‘I tried many tonics, tablets and exercise but all was in vain.’
    • ‘Milk thistle extract - long used as a liver tonic in European folk medicine - may be a far better nutritional supplement than its acclaimed herbal cousins.’
    stimulant, restorative, refresher, cordial
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    1. 1.1 Something with an invigorating effect.
      ‘being needed is a tonic for someone at my age’
      • ‘Laughter is an invigorating tonic that heightens and brightens the mood, gently releasing us from tensions and social constraints.’
      • ‘Any time I spend a few days in the company of these happy souls, it always feels like a complete tonic.’
      • ‘Love it or hate it, you're sure to find it an invigorating tonic.’
      • ‘The brash and disrespectful attitude of the music was a tonic, while the band's lack of anonymity broke the mould.’
      • ‘With commentary and analysis, its members provided a tonic for much of the mainstream media's excesses.’
      • ‘The food certainly tasted wonderful and was the perfect tonic before the long flight home.’
      • ‘I imagine all your adventures have served as a restorative tonic to the high-speed life of a newsman.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The sight of the team's captain leading the side out may provide just the tonic needed after weeks of bad fortune.’
      • ‘This sea change in music distribution is already upon us, and could provide the tonic for the revival of those beleaguered music companies.’
      • ‘Back in 1981, when this triple bill was new and the Met a more conservative place than it is today, such an original evening of opera was a positive tonic.’
      • ‘These were the words that worked like a tonic on the renowned music composer.’
      • ‘For a chef at the top of his game, his humility is a tonic.’
      • ‘He is definitely a tonic in this depressing age of faceless conductors.’
      • ‘I can't believe it - it was the perfect tonic after my heart operation.’
      • ‘Contrition isn't much in fashion these days, but it's still a tonic for the guilty soul - and who amongst us doesn't bear regrets for at least a few decisions.’
      • ‘For a person like me, who sees too much speed in all areas of modern life, his introspective takes on American music were the perfect tonic.’
      • ‘To a borderline workaholic like me, his attitude is a complete tonic.’
      • ‘Galleries provide a tonic for the overstimulated senses’
      • ‘He's been a good friend and his inveterate optimism has been a welcome tonic to my usual cynicism.’
      boost, stimulant, fillip, pleasure
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  • 2

    short for tonic water
    • ‘The boy brings us vodka and tonic which we drink on the balcony.’
    • ‘I now prefer the intoxicating blend of Russian caravan and lapsang souchong to the heady mix of vodka and tonic, going to bed early to sleeping in late, cook books to comic books.’
    • ‘Very, very expensive - the last time I went, I paid £7 for a gin and tonic.’
    • ‘However, compared to diet cola or sugar-charged tonic or lemonade, soda water wins by a mile.’
    • ‘People are going back to basics like Scotch on the rocks and Tanqueray and tonic.’
    • ‘This has what was doubtless the desired effect: a mouthful of gin and tonic comes back out through my nose.’
    • ‘And someone told me I should have a gin and tonic.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Ten years on, I like my vodka and tonic in a well-cut piece of glass with a few roughly hewed hunks of ice and a generous squeeze of real lime, thank you very much.’
    • ‘Yes, I know that the tonic has sugar in it (you can, of course, use diet), but with this quantity divided among eight it isn't that much per person.’
    • ‘In summer, drinkers take gin and tonic on the lawn or recline on the armchairs on the wooden verandah, while two great restaurants inside specialise in tasty Thai and Indian cuisine.’
    • ‘I like gin based drinks: Gin and tonic is usually a safe bet in any bar.’
    • ‘While I wait, I nurse a vodka and tonic and attempt to intelligently assess my surroundings.’
  • 3Music
    The first note in a scale which, in conventional harmony, provides the keynote of a piece of music.

    • ‘The penultimate piece, a ‘Song without Words’, is centred on F, the work's main tonic.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘This, technically speaking, is tonal music, but you'd be hard pressed to identify the tonic.’


  • 1Giving a feeling of vigour or well-being; invigorating.

    ‘a tonic body shampoo’
    • ‘His letters mention ‘excellent spirits’ and tonic air full of wonderful odours.’
    • ‘The Chinese sometimes include zhu ling (they use the sclerotium rather than the fruiting body) as an ingredient in herbal tonic formulas.’
    • ‘Adults still dutifully head home to mother for tonic soups when a hectic all-work-and-no-play lifestyle leaves them feeling under the weather.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Spontaneous carbonation or bubbles that sprung from natural mineral springs were believed to relieve common ailments with their tonic properties.’
    • ‘Ashwagandha is unique as a tonic herb in that it is exceptionally easy to cultivate and is ready for harvest after only one year of growth.’
    • ‘So the mere presence of a fixed percentage of ginsenosides does not guarantee the tonic properties of a well-aged root.’
    • ‘The range features a cleansing gel, tonic lotion, facial mask, day lotion and concentrate and a night gel as well as a blemish control stick and cream.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘This excellent tonic herb is high in mineral content, with a preference for supporting the liver.’
    • ‘Flavonoids are the most powerful health bestowing constituent of tonic herbs.’
    • ‘Dang Quai is one of the most popular Chinese tonic herbs for women.’
    • ‘As such it is a common ingredient in tonic formulas, particularly for elderly or debilitated people.’
    • ‘Somehow this alchemical process turns it from a cooling herb to a tonic herb.’
  • 2Music
    Relating to or denoting the first degree of a scale.

    • ‘A tonic resolution such as that at the end of this piece seems to me have quite an ironic quality.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘At first, whirling scales and broken arpeggios scamper across the keyboard, hopefully tethered by tonic pedal notes in the bass.’
    • ‘The superimposition of the tonic and dominant forms of the motif does not bring a resolution, only an uneasy symbiosis.’
  • 3Phonetics
    Denoting or relating to the syllable within a tone group that has greatest prominence, because it carries the main change of pitch.

    • ‘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.

    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Further, the number of both synapses and active zones per length terminal is significantly larger for the tonic axon in the leg extensor muscle.’
    • ‘Black haw, which has been described as having a uterine tonic effect, has been used to prepare women for labor.’
    • ‘Unphosphorylated, attached cross-bridges in tonic mammalian smooth muscle have a very slow rate of release of ADP.’
    • ‘The former is designated a slow twitch muscle fiber, and the latter as slow tonic muscle fiber.’
    1. 4.1Physiology Relating to, denoting, or producing continuous muscular contraction.
      • ‘The tonic contractions, in contrast, clearly regulate the emptying of fluids from the stomach.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Cardiac syncope often causes immediate loss of consciousness, tonic stiffening of body and limbs, and often myoclonic jerking.’


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