a crystalline, slightly water-soluble solid, C13H10N2O4, formerly used as a sedative: if taken during pregnancy, it may cause severe abnormalities in the limbs of the fetus.

Nearby words

  1. thalberg,
  2. thaler,
  3. thales,
  4. thali,
  5. thalia,
  6. thalli,
  7. thallic,
  8. thallious,
  9. thallium,
  10. thallium sulfate

Origin of thalidomide

1955–60; (ph)thal(im)ido(glutari)mide, equivalent to phthalimide (phthal(ic) + imide) + -o- + glutarimide (glut(en) + (tart)ar(ic) + imide) Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for thalidomide



  1. a synthetic drug formerly used as a sedative and hypnotic but withdrawn from the market when found to cause abnormalities in developing fetuses. Formula: C 13 H 10 N 2 O 4
  2. (as modifier)a thalidomide baby

Word Origin for thalidomide

C20: from thallic + -id- (from imide) + imide

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 thalidomide



1958, from "phthalimidoglutarimide," based on abbreviated form of naphthalene; a morning-sickness drug responsible for severe birth defects in Europe from 1956 to 1961, when it was withdrawn. It never was approved for use in America thanks to the efforts of Dr. Helen Brooke Taussig (1898-1986). Thalidomide baby is attested from 1962.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for thalidomide




A sedative and hypnotic drug that was withdrawn from sale after it was found to cause severe birth defects when taken during pregnancy.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Science definitions for thalidomide



A drug used to treat leprosy. It was previously prescribed to treat nausea during early pregnancy, but was found to cause severe birth defects, including stunting or absence of the limbs. Chemical formula: C13H10N2O4.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Culture definitions for thalidomide



A sedative drug that was developed and used in Europe in the 1960s. Thalidomide was taken off the market when it became evident that it caused severe birth defects in babies born to women who had used the drug during pregnancy.


References to thalidomide are often made when illustrating the dangers of using drugs whose side effects are not well known.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.