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illustration Nostrum



Part of speech: noun

Origin: Latin, 17th century


A pet project or favorite remedy, especially one for bringing about some social or political reform or improvement.


A medicine, especially one that is not considered effective, prepared by an unqualified person.

Examples of Nostrum in a sentence

"I know ginger ale is a nostrum with no medical effect, but I still drink it when I have a cold."

"For years, Michael’s nostrum was restoring the town gazebo, but lately he’s become interested in raising funds for the library."

About Nostrum

“Nostrum” is taken directly from the possessive Latin for “ours.”

Did you Know?

The root of “nostrum” — a Latin expression meaning “ours” — makes more sense in the history of “patent medicines.” These nonprescription formulations were also called “elixirs,” “tonics,” or “liniments,” and were sometimes advertised as containing snake oil (which was supposed to have a healing effect). They were also generally patented, whether they worked or not. Most had no effect but were advertised as a cure-all for nearly any ailment. Because those peddling such patent medications (sometimes called “snake-oil salesmen”) wanted to convince the public to buy their product and not their competitor’s, the word “nostrum” became associated with the uniqueness of the patent medication formula. A snake-oil salesman selling a nostrum would claim no other formulation but his own — “nostrum,” or “ours” — would provide the same relief.

illustration Nostrum

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