Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for February 19, 2021 is:

anodyne • AN-uh-dyne  • adjective

1 : serving to alleviate pain

2 : not likely to offend or arouse tensions : innocuous


“Since much of TikTok is wordless and anodyne, Tik-Tok seems the perfect corporate antidote to more pointed and politicized commentary on Twitter or Facebook.” — Elizabeth C. Tippett, Government Technology, 3 Dec. 2020

“He also voiced the donkey in the Shrek movies, talked to animals in the Dr. Dolittle movies, and goofed his way through an anodyne kiddie picture called Daddy Day Care. But this comeback, however well it served [Eddie] Murphy financially and spoke to his home life as a contented dad (of 10 children, as of now), was not the comic revival that his fans were rooting for.” — David Kamp, The Atlantic, December 2020

Did you know?

Anodyne came to English via Latin from Greek anṓdynos (meaning “free from pain, causing no pain, harmless, allaying pain”), and it has been used as both an adjective and a noun (“something that soothes, calms, or comforts”) since the 16th century. It has sometimes been used of things that dull or lull the senses and render painful experiences less so. British statesman Edmund Burke used it this way, for example, in 1790 when he referred to flattery as an “anodyne draft of oblivion” that renders one (in this particular case, the deposed King Louis XVI) forgetful of the flatterer’s true feelings. Nowadays, in addition to describing things that dull pain, anodyne can also refer to that which doesn’t cause discomfort in the first place.

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