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From Middle English venum, venym, from Anglo-Norman venum, venim, venime, from Old French venim, venin, from Vulgar Latin *venīmen, from Latin venēnum, from Proto-Italic *weneznom (lust, desire), from Proto-Indo-European *wenh₁- (to strive, wish, love); see also Sanskrit वनति (vanati, gain, wish, erotic lust) and Latin Venus.


  • IPA(key): /ˈvɛnəm/
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venom (countable and uncountable, plural venoms)

  1. A poison carried by an animal, usually injected into an enemy or prey by biting or stinging.
    • c. 1610, William Shakespeare, The Winter’s Tale, Act II, Scene 1,[1]
      [] There may be in the cup
      A spider steep’d, and one may drink, depart,
      And yet partake no venom, for his knowledge
      Is not infected:
    • 1634, John Milton, Arcades in Poems of Mr. John Milton, both English and Latin, London: Humphrey Moseley, Song, p. 54,[2]
      And from the Boughs brush off the evil dew,
      And heal the harms of thwarting thunder blew,
      Or what the cross dire-looking Planet smites,
      Or hurtfull Worm with canker’d venom bites.
    • 1818, Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, Chapter 20,[3]
      I will watch with the wiliness of a snake, that I may sting with its venom.
    • 1968, Truman Capote, interview published in Mademoiselle, August 1968,[4]
      The serious artist [] [is] obsessed by his material; it’s like a venom working in his blood and the art is the antidote.
  2. (figuratively) Feeling or speech marked by spite or malice; vitriol.
    • c. 1598, William Shakespeare, Henry V, Act V, Scene 2,[5]
      The venom of such looks, we fairly hope,
      Have lost their quality, and that this day
      Shall change all griefs and quarrels into love.
    • 1790, Richard Cumberland, The Observer, London: C. Dilly, Volume 5, No. 130, p. 48,[6]
      [] as I was feasting my jaundiced eye one morning with a certain newspaper, which I was in the habit of employing as the vehicle of my venom, I was startled at discovering myself conspicuously pointed out in an angry column as a cowardly defamer []
    • 1819, Walter Scott, The Bride of Lammermoor, Chapter 33,[7]
      “My daughter [] has no occasion to dispute the identity of your person; the venom of your present language is sufficient to remind her that she speaks with the mortal enemy of her father.”
    • 1938, Lawrence Durrell, The Black Book, New York: Open Road, 2012, Book Three,
      History is a study which has none of the venom of reality in it.
    • 1966, James Workman, The Mad Emperor, Melbourne, Sydney: Scripts, page 62:
      The attack was so unwarranted and delivered with such venom that his unpreparedness for it left him speechless.
    • 2007, Roger Ebert, Your Movie Sucks, Kansas City: Andrews McMeel, Introduction,[8]
      Some of these reviews were written in joyous zeal. Others with glee. Some in sorrow, some in anger, and a precious few with venom, of which I have a closely guarded supply.


  • (poison carried by an animal): atter (archaic, dialectal)

Derived terms[edit]


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.


venom (third-person singular simple present venoms, present participle venoming, simple past and past participle venomed)

  1. (obsolete) To infect with venom; to envenom; to poison.
    • 1566, Thomas Blundeville (translator and editor), The Fower Chiefyst Offices Belongyng to Horsemanshippe, London, Chapter 36,[9]
      [] washe all the filth away with warme water, and annoynte the place with Hony and Fytch flower myngled together. But beware you touche none of the kirnelles with your bare finger, for feare of venoming the place, which is very apt for a Fistula to breede in.
    • c. 1601, William Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida, Act V, Scene 3,[10]
      Let’s leave the hermit pity with our mothers,
      And when we have our armours buckled on,
      The venom’d vengeance ride upon our swords,
      Spur them to ruthful work, rein them from ruth.
    • 1669, John Bunyan, The Holy Citie, or, The New-Jerusalem, London: Francis Smith, Commentary, Chapter 21, Verse 25, pp. 229-230,[11]
      The Dragon is a venemous beast, and poisoneth all where he lieth; he beats the Earth bare, and venoms it, that it will bear no grass []
    • 1717, William Stonestreet (translator), “The Story of Ants chang’d to Men” in Samuel Garth (editor), Ovid’s Metamorphoses in Fifteen Books. Translated by the most eminent hands, London: Jacob Tonson, Book 7, p. 239,[12]
      Our Fountains too a dire Infection yield,
      For Crowds of Vipers creep along the Field,
      And with polluted Gore, and baneful Steams,
      Taint all the Lakes, and venom all the Streams.

Derived terms[edit]


venom (not comparable)

  1. (obsolete) Poisonous, poisoned; (figuratively) pernicious.
    • 1594, William Shakespeare, The Rape of Lucrece,[13]
      Why should the worm intrude the maiden bud?
      Or hateful cuckoos hatch in sparrows’ nests?
      Or toads infect fair founts with venom mud?
    • c. 1595, William Shakespeare, Richard II, Act II, Scene 1,[14]
      [] it is stopp’d with other flattering sounds,
      As praises, of whose taste the wise are fond,
      Lascivious metres, to whose venom sound
      The open ear of youth doth always listen;


Middle English[edit]



  1. Alternative form of venym




  1. poison, venom

See also[edit]