• synonyms


  1. a small globular or rounded mass of medicinal substance, usually covered with a hard coating, that is to be swallowed whole.
  2. something unpleasant that has to be accepted or endured: Ingratitude is a bitter pill.
  3. Slang. a tiresomely disagreeable person.
  4. Sports Slang. a ball, especially a baseball or golf ball.
  5. the pill. birth-control pill.
  6. pills, British Slang. billiards.
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verb (used with object)
  1. to dose with pills.
  2. to form or make into pills.
  3. Slang. to blackball.
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verb (used without object)
  1. to form into small, pill-like balls, as the fuzz on a wool sweater.Compare depill.
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  1. Take a chill pill! Disparaging Slang. chill pill(def 2).
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Origin of pill1

1375–1425; late Middle English pille < Middle Low German, Middle Dutch pilleLatin pilula, diminutive of pila ball; see -ule


verb (used with or without object)
  1. British Dialect. to peel.
  2. Obsolete. to become or cause to become bald.
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Origin of pill2

before 1100; Middle English pilen, Old English pilian to skin, peel < Latin pilāre to strip (said of hair). See pile3


verb (used with object) Archaic.
  1. to rob, plunder, or pillage.
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Origin of pill3

1150–1200; Middle English; probably conflation of pill2 with Middle French piller (see pillage)
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for pills

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • It was enclosed in a pasteboard box, and, when packed, looked just like the parcel of pills.

    The Channings

    Mrs. Henry Wood

  • He poured out the contents of the gourds, and ate up all the pills of life.

  • Shortly afterward Laotzse also came to him to tell about the theft of the pills of life.

  • This ape has eaten the peaches, has drunk the nectar and also swallowed the pills of life.

  • He wanted to take a couple of his pills but not in front of Dorwin.

    Reel Life Films

    Samuel Kimball Merwin

British Dictionary definitions for pills


pl n
  1. a slang word for testiclesSee testicle
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  1. a small spherical or ovoid mass of a medicinal substance, intended to be swallowed whole
  2. the pill (sometimes capital) informal an oral contraceptive
  3. something unpleasant that must be endured (esp in the phrase bitter pill to swallow)
  4. slang a ball or disc
  5. a small ball of matted fibres that forms on the surface of a fabric through rubbing
  6. slang an unpleasant or boring person
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  1. (tr) to give pills to
  2. (tr) to make pills of
  3. (intr)
    1. to form into small balls
    2. (of a fabric) to form small balls of fibre on its surface through rubbing
  4. (tr) slang to blackball
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See also pills

Word Origin

C15: from Middle Flemish pille, from Latin pilula a little ball, from pila ball


  1. archaic, or dialect to peel or skin (something)
  2. archaic to pillage or plunder (a place)
  3. obsolete to make or become bald
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Word Origin

Old English pilian, from Latin pilāre to strip
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 pills



"small ball or round mass of medicine," c.1400, from Middle Dutch or Middle Low German pille and Middle French pile, all from Latin pilula "pill," literally "little ball," diminutive of pila "a ball, playing ball," said to be related to pilus "hair" if the original notion was "hairball." Figurative sense "something disagreeable that must be swallowed" is from 1540s; slang meaning "boring person" is recorded from 1871. The pill "contraceptive pill" is from 1957.

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1736, "to dose on pills," from pill (n.). From 1882 as "to form into pills." Related: Pilled; pilling.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

pills in Medicine


  1. A small pellet or tablet of medicine, often coated, taken by swallowing whole or by chewing.
  2. An oral contraceptive.
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The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Idioms and Phrases with pills


see bitter pill to swallow; sugar the pill.

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The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.