Definition: Poison

From New World Encyclopedia


From Middle English poisoun, poyson, poysone, puyson, puisun, from Old French poison, from Latin pōtio, pōtiōnis (“drink, a draught, a poisonous draught, a potion”), from pōtō (“I drink”).


poison (countable and uncountable, plural poisons)

  1. A substance that is harmful or lethal to a living organism.
    We used a poison to kill the weeds.
  2. Something that harms a person or thing.
    Gossip is a malicious poison.
  3. (idiomatic) A drink; liquor. (note: this sense is chiefly encountered in the phrases "name your poison" and "what's your poison ?")
    What's your poison? I'll have a glass of whisky.

Derived terms

  • poison gas
  • poison hemlock
  • poison ivy
  • poison oak
  • poison pen
  • poison pill
  • poison sumac
  • poisoner
  • poisoning
  • poisonous
  • poisonwood
  • rat poison
  • what's your poison


poison (third-person singular simple present poisons, present participle poisoning, simple past and past participle poisoned)

  1. (transitive) To use poison to kill or paralyze (somebody).
    The assassin poisoned the king.
  2. (transitive) To pollute; to cause to become poisonous.
    That factory is poisoning the river.
  3. (transitive) To cause to become bad or unpleasant.
    Suspicion will poison their relationship.
    He poisoned the mood in the room with his non-stop criticism.
  4. (transitive) To cause (someone) to hate or to have unfair negative opinions.
    She poisoned him against all his old friends.


New World Encyclopedia writers and editors copied and adjusted this Wiktionary entry in accordance with NWE standards. This article abides by terms of the Creative Commons CC-by-sa 3.0 License (CC-by-sa), which may be used and disseminated with proper attribution. Credit for this article is due to both New World Encyclopedia contributors and the selfless volunteer contributors of the Wikimedia Foundation. To cite this article click here for a list acceptable citing formats.The history of earlier contributions at Wiktionary is accessible to researchers here: