Definition of opium in English:



  • 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.

    • ‘Both are controlled drugs, and staff handed the morphine and opium over to the Home Office Drugs Inspectorate.’
    • ‘Against the recurrent agony, Scott took dangerously large amounts of opium.’
    • ‘This wasn't the boy who seemed to be high on opium every time I met him.’
    • ‘The Portuguese imported both tobacco and opium, and supplied a cheap instrument for addicts, the pipe.’
    • ‘In the big house, there are also special rooms for smoking opium, playing mahjong and even fishing.’
    • ‘Misawa also debunked the view that substitute crops need to be more profitable than illegal opium.’
    • ‘Prior to the criminalisation of cocaine and opium, organised crime had no reason to be involved in the drugs trade.’
    • ‘Company ships were forbidden to carry opium, thus avoiding difficulties with the Canton authorities.’
    • ‘Picasso had a brief flirtation with opium and hashish, during the Rose and Blue periods, but soon abandoned them.’
    • ‘Alexander has brought in a picture of himself smoking opium with tribes in Northern Thailand.’
    • ‘These suggestions were based on evidence that showed that opium was addictive.’
    • ‘With minimal discretion, sly-looking men lounge amidst bricks of hash and balls of opium.’
    • ‘Although he replied that he did not even know what opium looked like, his bags were emptied and searched.’
    • ‘But we have to remember that in the nineteenth century opium was a painkiller.’
    • ‘The uncle's wife is moved into the town house where she smokes opium on her bed everyday.’
    • ‘In 1804, while at Oxford, he had begun to take opium, and from 1812 he became an addict.’
    • ‘Surgeons would attempt to stupefy the patient with alcohol, opium, or morphia, but with little effect.’
    • ‘At that time, about one-fifth of all opium brought into China was shipped on the Sassoon fleet.’
    • ‘At Wadham he experimented with opium as an anaesthetic enabling doctors to perform prolonged surgery.’
    • ‘Wood suffered from chronic instability in his personal life, and was heavily addicted to opium.’
    drug, narcotic, mind-altering drug, sedative, tranquillizer, depressant, sleeping pill, soporific, anaesthetic, painkiller, analgesic, anodyne
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  • the opium of the people (or masses)

    • Something regarded as inducing a false and unrealistic sense of contentment among people.

      • ‘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.’’
      • ‘Food has long been the opium of the masses.’
      • ‘It's almost like the opium of the people that Karl Marx was talking about a century ago.’
      • ‘Marx called religion the heart of a heartless world, the soul of a soulless condition, the opium of the people.’
      • ‘Football was viewed by a man whose business judgement is rarely wrong, as the opium of the masses and the quickest way to shift satellite dishes.’
      • ‘Marx said that religion is 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.’
      • ‘But in Bachelder's America, the corporation is king, entertainment is the opium of the masses and you are free to do exactly what you are told.’
      • ‘Perhaps Tommy thinks mints are the opium of the masses but, seeing him there, Curran immediately withdrew the Polos and handed them back to Rosie.’
      • ‘The well-known expression that religion is the opium of the people was made famous by Marx but was also used independently around the same time by the Christian reformer Charles Kingsley.’


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