[ poi-zuhn ]
/ ˈpɔɪ zən /
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See synonyms for: poison / poisoned / poisoning on Thesaurus.com

verb (used with object)
causing poisoning; poisonous: a poison shrub.
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Origin of poison

First recorded in 1200–50; Middle English puisun, from Old French, from Latin pōtiōn- (stem of pōtiō) “drink, potion, poisonous draught.” See potion.

synonym study for poison

1. Poison, toxin, venom are terms for any substance that injures the health or destroys life when absorbed into the system, especially of a higher animal. Poison is the general word: a poison for insects. A toxin is a poison produced by an organism; it is especially used in medicine in reference to disease-causing bacterial secretions: A toxin produces diphtheria. Venom is especially used of the poisons secreted by certain animals, usually injected by bite or sting: the venom of a snake.


Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does poison mean?

A poison is a substance that causes bodily harm or destroys health, The vile was filled with a deadly poison. 

In this sense, poison can be used as a verb to mean to give poison to a living thing, as in The farmer poisoned his rival’s sheep. 

Poison can also mean to harm or kill a living thing with poison, as in The king died because he had been poisoned by one of his own knights. 

And poison can mean to add poison to something, as in The knight poisoned the king’s wine to achieve his wicked goal. 

More generally, poison can be used to refer to any harmful or corruptive thing, as in Trevor was doomed by the poison of gambling. 

In this sense, you can use poison as a verb as well, as in Isabelle’s mind was poisoned by the lies contained in the forbidden books. 

Finally, poison can be used as an adjective to mean something that can cause poisoning, as in There are many poison plants in the woods.

Something that contains poison is said to be poisonous, as in He went to the hospital after being bitten by a poisonous spider. 

Example: Because we handle chemicals that are dangerous poisons in our lab, we take many safety precautions.

Where does poison come from?

The first records of the word poison come from around 1200. It ultimately comes from the Latin pōtiōn-, a stem of pōtiō that means “a drink, potion or poisonous draught.” Even the ancient Romans knew that some substances were dangerous to drink or eat.

The words toxin and venom are used to describe specific kinds of poisons. Toxin refers to poisons made by organisms, especially those that bacteria or fungi release. Venom most often refers to the poisons of animals, which are injected into victims by bites or stings, such as from snakes or scorpions.

As with all chemicals that are potentially deadly or dangerous, items that can be poisonous are clearly labelled with warnings. Bug sprays and rat poison are just two examples of things you can buy at the store that will have warnings like this.

Did you know … ?

What are some other forms related to poison?

  • poisoner (noun)
  • poisonless (adjective)
  • poisonlessness (noun)
  • outpoison (verb)

What are some synonyms for poison?

What are some words that share a root or word element with poison

What are some words that often get used in discussing poison?

How is poison used in real life?

Poison is a common word used to describe something that is literally or figuratively harmful.

Try using poison!

True or False?

A poison is a substance that can damage the body or cause death.

How to use poison in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for poison

/ (ˈpɔɪzən) /

verb (tr)

Derived forms of poison

poisoner, noun

Word Origin for poison

C13: from Old French puison potion, from Latin pōtiō a drink, esp a poisonous one, from pōtāre to drink
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

Other Idioms and Phrases with poison


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