- any of various varnishlike products for coating a fabric, as of airplane wings, in order to make it waterproof, stronger, etc.
- a similar product used to coat the fabric of a balloon to reduce gas leakage.
- any narcotic or narcoticlike drug taken to induce euphoria or satisfy addiction.
- any illicit drug.
- a drug, as a steroid, given to an athlete to boost athletic performance.
- a narcotic or other drug given surreptitiously to a horse to improve or retard its performance in a race.
verb (used with object), doped, dop·ing.
- to affect with dope or drugs (usually followed by up or out): I was so doped up that I couldn't remember a thing.
- to add a narcotic or other drug to:My brother doped my food as a prank.
- to give a drug to (an athlete or horse), so as to affect performance in a race or other competition.
verb (used without object), doped, dop·ing.
QUIZ YOURSELF ON “THEIR,” “THERE,” AND “THEY’RE”
Origin of dope
regional variation note for dope
OTHER WORDS FROM dopeun·doped, adjective
Words nearby dope
ABOUT THIS WORD
What else does dope mean?
A dope can be a fool, a slang term for “excellent,” or refer to drugs like marijuana.
Doping is using performance-enhancing drugs in sports.
Where did the term dope come from?
Dope comes from the Dutch doop, meaning “thick sauce” and used for various types of gravy in English in the early 1800s. By the 1850s, dope was a mild insult for a “stupid person” … even Disney’s 1937 Snow White and the Seven Dwarves featured Dopey.
You know what else is thick and sticky? Opium, referred to as dope by the 1880s. This drug can be packed into a pipe as a thick paste. By the 1900s, dope was slang for other drugs, including “morphine,” “cocaine,” and “heroine” and then especially “marijuana.” A dope city is 2000s slang for a neighborhood where drugs are prevalent.
Dope spread into the hip-hop lexicon in its early days. Clean-living rapper Spoonie Gee cautioned teens on his 1979 “Spoonin Rap: “You better look alive, not like you take dope.” Else you’ll be a dope, slang for someone who is drugged out.
Rappers started using the word dope to mean “excellent” by the 1980s, which we can find in the lyrics of hip-hop OG‘s Busy Bee and Grandmaster Flash. Some linguists call this process of changing a term with negative connotations into positive ones “inversion.” We see it in other slang like bad or sick, both meaning “very good.” Associations with the euphoric feelings of being high and the “bad boy” vibes of drug-dealing, street life, and partying probably also helped shift dope‘s meaning.
Doping, for “performance-enhancing drugs” like steroids banned in sports, came into the spotlight during scandals in baseball, cycling, and the Olympics in the 1990–2000s. Particularly prominent was Lance Armstrong, the tarnished Tour de France champion who admitted to doping in 2013. This sense of dope evolves out of horse-racing slang in the early 1900s, with dope referring to substances given to horses to improve (or impair) their performance. Expressions like the straight dope or inside dope comes from bettors getting all the information on a horse.
How to use the term dope
While dope for “excellent” came out of Black slang and hip-hop culture, it was quickly appropriated by mainstream culture. The nerdy, white step-brother in 1995’s Clueless remarked “that would be pretty dope of us” to help out his stepsister’s friends.
Lana Del Rey commands “Be young, be dope, be proud,” on her 2012 single “Americans.”
— Megan Lien (@MeganMLien) July 17, 2018
Dope has even made its way into Kpop on BTS’s 2015 single “Dope,” in which the band boasts about being the slang term.
Despite the appropriation, it still sees plenty of use in Black culture. For example, comedians Jessica Williams and Phoebe Robinson launched a podcast called “2 Dope Queens” that discusses topics on race and gender. Director Rick Famuyiwa titled his 2015 feature film Dope, about a geeky, Black teen man who overcomes adversity, including a bullying drug-dealer.
Dope is still used as slang for “drugs,” as seen in G Unit’s 2015 joint “Move that Dope”: “Turn the whole brick to a Lam / Been rockin’ the dope, soon as it get off the boat.”
Doping is widely used in discussions of sports. In the 2010s, a massive doping scandal rocked Russian sports, including an official Russian team being banned (though not individual athletes) from the 2018 Winter Olympics. The organization that tests athletes in international competitions is called the World Anti-Doping Agency.
More examples of dope:
“Congresswoman Maxine Waters Inspires a Dope Designer T-Shirt During Men’s Fashion Week”
—Jazmin Brooks, Essence (headline), July 2018
“Dope testing is due to be introduced at The Open for the first time this week at Carnoustie but South African golfing legend Gary Player questions why it has taken so long.”
—Oisin McQueirns, Pundit Arena, July 2018
This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.
Example sentences from the Web for dope
It’s been dope to see a lot of female rappers dominate the charts.All Def Digital Launches Channel For Women, By Women|Brande Victorian|April 1, 2021|Essence.com
The stereotypes stretch from a detached, self-absorbed woman to a boundaryless dope, meddling and at times arriving uninvited with meatloaf.It’s time to end the TV trope of the needy empty-nest mom|Michele Weldon|February 2, 2021|Washington Post
I’m sort of like, is that allowed, but at the same time it’s dope and I’ve never seen anything like it.Crypto-driven marketplace Zora raises $2M to build a sustainable creator economy|Matthew Panzarino|October 16, 2020|TechCrunch
But today, these artists are as serious about making dope songs as they are about their faith.Down With the King: Christianity Isn’t Hiding in Rap’s Closet|Stereo Williams|December 28, 2014|DAILY BEAST
Soon cover versions were recorded by acts like Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Dope, and Rage Against the Machine.
Dope smokers find e-cigarettes and high-tech ‘mods’ are great for smoking in public, with less fear from cops and bouncers.
She began a novel about a girl who started shooting dope in high school.
Growing dope make sense at a time when almost nothing else does.
Lamb said to himself, "That dope goes around in a rut and I'll get in one too just following him and then I will get sore."
"We'll have to dope out some way to get something to eat," said Mercer.The Fire People|Ray Cummings
At any rate, we must now put our heads together and dope out just what to do in this smuggling case.The Ranger Boys and the Border Smugglers|Claude A. Labelle
Of course a man will hate to believe that this is true of himself, but sooner or later money affects him as drugs do a dope-fiend.The Crow's Nest|Clarence Day, Jr.
To-day the covered wing is treated with a substance known as “dope,” which shrinks it till it is “tight as a drum.”The Romance of Aircraft|Lawrence Yard Smith
British Dictionary definitions for dope
- any illegal drug, usually cannabis
- (as modifier)a dope fiend