Definition of palliative in English:



  • 1(of a medicine or medical care) relieving pain without dealing with the cause of the condition.

    ‘orthodox medicines tend to be palliative rather than curative’
    soothing, alleviating, sedative, calmative, calming
    alleviative, alleviatory, lenitive, demulcent, assuasive, mitigatory, mitigative, paregoric
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    1. 1.1(of an action) intended to alleviate a problem without addressing the underlying cause.
      ‘short-term, palliative measures had been taken’
      • ‘After ten years of palliative measures, the fundamental problems of the Japanese economy are nowhere near a solution.’
      • ‘Of course, these were only palliative measures.’
      • ‘The solution should be sought in fast and radical changes to the law on the health insurance system, not in palliative measures like deferment or waiver of debts.’
      • ‘If treatment cannot provide the patient a quality life, then it is considered better to give no treatment beyond palliative measures.’
      • ‘With every new tragedy, state officials respond with palliative measures and assurances that the issue will be studied further.’
      • ‘Disgusted with the bland, palliative Lutheranism of his day, he stresses duty, self-sacrifice, and total commitment.’
      • ‘Nor does the structure admit individual improvement of caste, as a palliative measure, though the possibility of change of an entire caste is apparently recognized.’
      • ‘The dim lights and subdued strains of music wafted across the hall, giving a palliative effect.’
      • ‘However, more important than these essentially palliative measures was the clear acceptance by the Treasury of the principle of ‘parity plus’.’
      • ‘It had to resort to palliative measures such as social assistance, and a restructuring plan for the Belgian industry, which was hardest hit by the crisis.’
      • ‘I wanted to create an alternative to the numbers, the arguments over ‘who is to blame’ and what palliative measures governments and corporations might be willing to take.’
      • ‘As a practical matter, the current legal regime substitutes palliative euphemisms for useful controls on police discretion.’
      • ‘If this palliative censorship worked at all, it worked to alleviate some symptoms manifest in racist broadcasts at the dawn of commercial television.’
      • ‘I'll be interested to see if it offers any greater palliative effect.’


  • A palliative remedy, medicine, etc.

    • ‘There are palliatives, cosmetics like quinine for malaria, which suppress the symptoms for as long as you take them; when you stop taking quinine, the malaria returns at full force.’
    • ‘Such was the milieu in which nineteenth-century gymnastics and calisthenics systems offered women palliatives for infirmities that were equated with consumptive female invalidism.’
    • ‘But we need much more than news about the latest theories and scientific findings on preventive measures, palliatives and cures.’
    • ‘The U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service has several very good publications available on the construction and maintenance of improved soil roads and dust palliatives.’
    • ‘He went on to say that palliatives would not avail.’
    • ‘While we all can understand how belittling that experience must have been, shooting the messenger is never the recommended palliative.’
    • ‘If not, the measure would be a simple ineffective palliative, but not a solution to the problem.’
    • ‘Nelson says he sees a day when grading professionals will lay down their own dust palliatives to cap off the soil after completing the excavation.’
    • ‘In meeting after meeting workers demanding action confronted the City Council, only to receive empty palliatives and arrogant admonitions that they were ‘on their side.’’
    • ‘Sandwiched between the ready availability of drugs and an inadequate response is a lost generation for whom cocaine is an easier palliative than the severity of a drug-free life.’
    • ‘Morris would undoubtedly see these strategies as little more than palliatives at best or work intensification at worst and certainly unchallenging to the structure of capitalist work relations.’
    • ‘No one would criticise last week's announcement of $1 billion to help combat Aids and other illnesses worldwide, but the gesture represents the tiniest of palliatives to a string of global pandemics.’
    • ‘What this palliative fails to address is the involvement of the directors themselves in CEOs’ criminal activity.’
    • ‘It would have, in essence, offered a short-term palliative to a longer-term problem.’
    • ‘The other, I think, is the common conspiracy theory that pharmaceutical companies do not produce cures because they can make more profit selling palliatives.’
    • ‘Lanzmann isn't interested in extracting pity from his viewers; for him, history is present, undeniable and bereft of palliatives.’
    • ‘Pharmaceutical companies do not like palliatives that can be grown in the back yard.’
    • ‘There are various palliatives, but there is no cure.’
    • ‘There is yet no cure for Aids, only palliatives to make life more comfortable and to prolong life in the shadow of certain death,’ he said.’
    • ‘I always assumed these books were filled with trite palliatives.’
    painkiller, analgesic, pain reliever, sedative, tranquillizer, anodyne, calmative, opiate, bromide
    lenitive, demulcent, mitigative, paregoric
    View synonyms


Late Middle English (as an adjective): from French palliatif, -ive or medieval Latin palliativus, from the verb palliare to cloak (see palliate).