Definition of ptomaine in US English:



  • Any of a group of amine compounds of unpleasant taste and odor formed in putrefying animal and vegetable matter and formerly thought to cause food poisoning.

    • ‘He died of ptomaine poisoning contracted from tainted Japanese crabmeat.’
    • ‘Being in town, I warily went along to the Colorado Ballet's production of The Nutcracker, a ballet I normally prefer only slightly to ptomaine poisoning.’
    • ‘A serious outbreak of ptomaine poisoning, said to be due to eating ice cream, had occurred.’
    • ‘According to the old Eclectic doctors it proved to be universally successful in the treatment of every case of ptomaine poisoning.’
    • ‘The Mayor and Mayoress of Doncaster had been suffering from ptomaine poisoning, caused by eating pigeon pie provided for their guests at an entertainment at the Mansion House.’


Late 19th century: from French ptomaïne, from Italian ptomaina, formed irregularly from Greek ptōma ‘corpse’.