Can I use the word anodyne as an adjective in the sense of "soothing", "calming","tranquilizing" or "mollifying"?

In Oxford Dictionary , the synonyms given are "bland, dull, innocuous, inoffensive, neutral" as adjectives, while "painkiller " or "soother" as a noun.

However, there are some words similar to "soothing" given as synonym in the adjective form on thesaurus.com.

So apparently its noun form meaning does not meet its adjective meaning form , does it?

I wonder if it would be appropriate to say these kinds of collocations :

anodyne view/sight/scene

anodyne seaside view

anodyne photos of animals

  • Frankly I think your biggest problem with using that word would be that native speakers won't know the word. It's extremely rare, at least in modern AmE.
    – PMV
    Dec 30, 2016 at 20:35
  • @PMV Thank you for your comment. I know it is not a common word but I wonder how to use it correctly.
    – Mrt
    Dec 30, 2016 at 20:40
  • Literally, an anodyne is a pain killer or a curative of some kind, while figuratively, that which has the quality of being anodyne is harmless or innocuous. But the harm not caused is not physical. That which is anodyne is not likely to get anyone riled up or offended.
    – TimR
    Dec 30, 2016 at 20:41
  • 1
    It is a literary term, but you can use it as a noun or an adjective. It definitely has a 19th century ring to it, though.
    – Robusto
    Dec 30, 2016 at 20:53
  • @TRomano Thank you for your comment. I feel like using it in a sense of innocuous is okay but not as "dull". It may be offensive in some contexts while you try to mean something is a inoffensive or kind of politically correct. Interesting isn't it ?
    – Mrt
    Dec 30, 2016 at 20:54

2 Answers 2


Perhaps more common in UK English. I feel it is rare but not exceptionally so. I was passively aware of the adjective sense, not the medical one. Anodyne means "dull". An anodyne seaside view is one that is uninteresting.

A useful example

[The] anodyne depiction of the British seaside that was ever-popular in [...] early twentieth century picture postcards. There always has to be a timber-framed house next to the sea and a fishing skiff pulled up on the sands. The colours are as limited as the artist's imagination [...]

So, whereas "soothing" carries a positive meaning, anodyne does not. It doesn't mean that it will actually send you to sleep, merely that it won't catch your attention.


The word "anodyne" has a very specific meaning of "pain killer". Figuratively it means something harmless or pacifying, but these days it's rarely used for either purpose. Most of the references you find are medical-related.

What it does not mean is "calming" or "relaxing". Even used figuratively, it has the nuance of a pharmacological substance, that, while not specifically a soporific, might still help you to sleep. Note the synonyms in the link you provide: "anesthetic", "narcotic", "sedative".

So when you say something like "anodyne seaside view", aside from the unusual word itself, it also vaguely implies that the view will "knock you out". Which is probably not what you mean to say.

  • Thank you for your answer. I probably do not mean " to knock you out"
    – Mrt
    Dec 30, 2016 at 21:01
  • 1
    In fact it has often been used as an adjective or attributive noun, which is functionally the same.
    – Robusto
    Dec 30, 2016 at 21:01
  • @Robusto Good point. I can't recall ever seeing it used as a adjective, though, but apparently it can be. Edited my answer.
    – Andrew
    Dec 30, 2016 at 21:04
  • Not necessarily pharmacological; see anodyne enema. "... an anodyne enema ... consisting of oil of walnuts suspended in ... port wine". books.google.com/…
    – TimR
    Dec 30, 2016 at 21:18
  • I don't think it implies that it will knock you out, when used non-medically. It just means that it is boring.
    – James K
    Dec 30, 2016 at 21:28

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