Definition of opium in US 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.

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

      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Food has long been the opium of the masses.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Marx called religion the heart of a heartless world, the soul of a soulless condition, 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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘It's almost like the opium of the people that Karl Marx was talking about a century ago.’
      • ‘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.’’


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