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From Middle French thériaque, from Medieval Latin theriaca, from Ancient Greek θηριακή (thēriakḗ, antidote) feminine form of θηριακός (thēriakós, concerning venomous beasts), from θήρ (thḗr, beast).


  • IPA(key): [ˈθɛ.ɹi..ək], [ˈθɛ.ɹi..ɑk]


theriac (plural theriacs)

  1. (historical, pharmacology) A supposed universal antidote against poison, especially snake venom; specifically, one such developed in the 1st century as an improvement on mithridate.
    Theriac was essentially homeopathic in its supposed function, being an "improvement" on mithridate by virtue of containing more poisons.
    • 1975, Guido Majno, The Healing Hand, Harvard University Press, 1991, paperback edition, page 415,
      From then on galene became the theriac par excellence, known simply as theriac, and there never was a more successful drug. [] Those who could afford it gulped down a bean-sized lump of theriac for practically everything from the Black Death to nothing at all, as a preventive.
    • 2010, Richard Swiderski, Poison Eaters, Universal-Publishers, page 54,
      A number of theriacs and mithridatia appear in the writings of ancient doctors, but it is rare to find an account of how one of them was used and the effect it had.
  2. (obsolete) Treacle; molasses.

Usage notes[edit]

  • Originally developed in antiquity for kings and used as both preventive and antidote, it came to be regarded as a panacea. In mediaeval times it was thought effective against the bubonic plague and was known among English apothecaries as Venice treacle.



theriac (comparative more theriac, superlative most theriac)

  1. (obsolete) Theriacal; medicinal.

See also[edit]