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Sep 28, 2006
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Miscellaneous words

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with Anu Garg


(THEER-ee-ak) Pronunciation Sound Clip RealAudio

1. Treacle or molasses.
2. An antidote to poison.

From Latin theriaca (antidote), from Greek therion (wild beast).

The original theriac was made by combining 60-70 ingredients (including the flesh of the viper) mixed with honey. It was supposed to be an antidote against all poisons and thus the word is also used in the sense of cure-all.

Around twenty years ago, there was a radiation therapy machine named Therac-25. Its buggy software delivered occasional massive overdoses of radiation and killed at least six patients. This infamous device is now a standard case study in the matters of software testing and reliability. With a name like that...

"Galen, for instance, treated the melancholic emperor Marcus Aurelius with theriac, a concoction of sixty-odd ingredients, chief among them the pulverized flesh of a viper-that is to say, snake oil."
Gary Greenberg; Misery's Fogs; Harper's (New York); Aug 2005.

See more usage examples of theriac in Vocabulary.com's dictionary.


A mature person is one who does not think only in absolutes, who is able to be objective even when deeply stirred emotionally, who has learned that there is both good and bad in all people and in all things, and who walks humbly and deals charitably with the circumstances of life, knowing that in this world no one is all knowing and therefore all of us need both love and charity. -Eleanor Roosevelt, diplomat and writer (1884-1962)

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