Also called deadly nightshade. a poisonous plant, Atropa belladonna, of the nightshade family, having purplish-red flowers and black berries.
Pharmacology. a drug from the leaves and root of this plant, containing atropine and related alkaloids: used in medicine to check secretions and spasms, to relieve pain or dizziness, and as a cardiac and respiratory stimulant.

Origin of belladonna

First recorded in 1590–1600, belladonna is from the Italian word bella donna literally, fair lady (so called because it is said to have been used by women to dilate the pupils of the eyes and to create an artificial pallor). See belle, donna Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

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British Dictionary definitions for belladonna



either of two alkaloid drugs, atropine or hyoscyamine, obtained from the leaves and roots of the deadly nightshade
another name for deadly nightshade

Word Origin for belladonna

C16: from Italian, literally: beautiful lady; supposed to refer to its use by women as a cosmetic
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for belladonna

1590s, "deadly nightshade" (Atropa belladonna), from Italian, literally "fair lady;" the plant so called supposedly because women made cosmetic eye-drops from its juice (an 18c. explanation; atropic acid, found in the plant, has a well-known property of dilating the pupils) or because it was used to poison beautiful women. Perhaps a folk etymology alteration; Gamillscheg suggests ultimately of Gaulish origin.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

belladonna in Medicine




A poisonous Eurasian perennial herb having usually solitary, purplish-brown, bell-shaped flowers and glossy black berries.deadly nightshade
An alkaloidal extract or tincture derived from this plant.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

belladonna in Science



A preparation of the dried leaves or roots of deadly nightshade or related plants in the genus Belladonna, once used as a medicine. Belladonna contains several alkaloids that affect the nervous system by blocking the effects of acetylcholine.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.