Poison Poi"son, n. [F. poison, in Old French also, a potion, fr. L. potio a drink, draught, potion, a poisonous draught, fr. potare to drink. See {Potable}, and cf. {Potion}.] 1. Any agent which, when introduced into the animal organism, is capable of producing a morbid, noxious, or deadly effect upon it; as, morphine is a deadly poison; the poison of pestilential diseases. [1913 Webster]

2. That which taints or destroys moral purity or health; as, the poison of evil example; the poison of sin. [1913 Webster]

{Poison ash}. (Bot.) (a) A tree of the genus {Amyris} ({Amyris balsamifera}) found in the West Indies, from the trunk of which a black liquor distills, supposed to have poisonous qualities. (b) The poison sumac ({Rhus venenata}). [U. S.]

{Poison dogwood} (Bot.), poison sumac.

{Poison fang} (Zo["o]l.), one of the superior maxillary teeth of some species of serpents, which, besides having the cavity for the pulp, is either perforated or grooved by a longitudinal canal, at the lower end of which the duct of the poison gland terminates. See Illust. under {Fang}.

{Poison gland} (Biol.), a gland, in animals or plants, which secretes an acrid or venomous matter, that is conveyed along an organ capable of inflicting a wound.

{Poison hemlock} (Bot.), a poisonous umbelliferous plant ({Conium maculatum}). See {Hemlock}.

{Poison ivy} (Bot.), a poisonous climbing plant (formerly {Rhus Toxicodendron}, or {Rhus radicans}, now classified as {Toxicodendron radicans}) of North America. It is common as a climbing vine, especially found on tree trunks, or walls, or as a low, spreading vine or as a shrub. As a low vine it grows well in lightly shaded areas, recognizable by growing in clusters of three leaves. Its leaves are trifoliate, rhombic-ovate, and variously notched. Its form varies slightly from location to location, leading to some speculation that it may consist of more than one species. Many people are poisoned by it, though some appear resistant to its effects. Touching the leaves may leave a residue of an oil on the skin, and if not washed off quickly, sensitive areas of skin become reddened and develop multiple small blisters, lasting for several days to several weeks, and causing a persistent itch. The toxic reaction is due to an oil, present in all parts of the plant except the pollen, called {urushiol}, the active component of which is the compound {pentadecylacatechol}. See {Poison sumac}. It is related to {poison oak}, and is also called {mercury}.

{Poison nut}. (Bot.) (a) Nux vomica. (b) The tree which yields this seed ({Strychnos Nuxvomica}). It is found on the Malabar and Coromandel coasts.

{Poison oak} (Bot.), a dermatitis-producing plant often lumped together with the poison ivy ({Toxicodendron radicans}) in common terminology, but more properly distinguished as the more shrubby {Toxicodendron quercifolium} (syn. {Toxicodendron diversilobum}), common in California and Oregon. Opinion varies as to whether the poison oak and poison ivy are only variants of a single species. See {poison ivy}, above.

{Poison sac}. (Zo["o]l.) Same as {Poison gland}, above. See Illust. under {Fang}.

{Poison sumac} (Bot.), a poisonous shrub formerly considered to be of the genus {Rhus} ({Rhus venenata}), but now classified as {Toxicodendron vernix}; -- also called {poison ash}, {poison dogwood}, and {poison elder}. It has pinnate leaves on graceful and slender common petioles, and usually grows in swampy places. Both this plant and the poison ivy ({Toxicodendron radicans}, formerly {Rhus Toxicodendron}) have clusters of smooth greenish white berries, while the red-fruited species of this genus are harmless. The tree ({Rhus vernicifera}) which yields the celebrated Japan lacquer is almost identical with the poison sumac, and is also very poisonous. The juice of the poison sumac also forms a lacquer similar to that of Japan. [1913 Webster +PJC]

Syn: Venom; virus; bane; pest; malignity.

Usage: {Poison}, {Venom}. Poison usually denotes something received into the system by the mouth, breath, etc. Venom is something discharged from animals and received by means of a wound, as by the bite or sting of serpents, scorpions, etc. Hence, venom specifically implies some malignity of nature or purpose. [1913 Webster]

The Collaborative International Dictionary of English. 2000.


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