These days, asking the pharmacist for a physic to relieve your constipation will probably get you a blank stare; it's an old-fashioned, rarely-used term for "laxative."

Physic comes from the Latin word for "study of nature," so it's unclear how it came to mean a "purging medicine." An almost-synonym is "cathartic," although that word is usually used to describe an emotional purging- like a good cry- rather than physical one. Don't confuse physic with physics, the scientific study of the interaction between energy and matter, or psychic, someone who can read minds and see the future.

Definitions of physic

n a purging medicine; stimulates evacuation of the bowels

aperient, cathartic, purgative
show 7 types...
hide 7 types...
aloes, bitter aloes
a purgative made from the leaves of aloe
castor oil
a purgative extracted from the seed of the castor-oil plant; used in paint and varnish as well as medically
Epsom salts
(used with a singular noun) hydrated magnesium sulfate used as a laxative
a mild cathartic
milk of magnesia
purgative consisting of a milky white liquid suspension of magnesium hydroxide; used as a laxative and (in smaller doses) as an antacid
Rochelle powder, Seidlitz powder, Seidlitz powders
an effervescing salt containing sodium bicarbonate and Rochelle salt and tartaric acid; used as a cathartic
a laxative used in many preparations under various trade names; also used as an acid-base indicator in titrations involving weak acids and strong bases because it is brilliant red at high alkalinity and colorless below pH 8
Type of:
medicament, medication, medicinal drug, medicine
(medicine) something that treats or prevents or alleviates the symptoms of disease

Sign up, it's free!

Whether you're a student, an educator, or a lifelong learner, can put you on the path to systematic vocabulary improvement.