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Belladonna, n.: In Italian a beautiful lady; in English a deadly poison. A striking example of the essential identity of the two tongues. ~ Ambrose Bierce
For the rock band, see Poison (band).

Poisons are substances that can cause disturbances to organisms, usually by chemical reaction or other activity on the molecular scale, when a sufficient quantity is absorbed by an organism. In medicine (particularly veterinary) and in zoology, a poison is often distinguished from a toxin and a venom. Toxins are poisons produced via some biological function in nature, and venoms are usually defined as biological toxins that are injected by a bite or sting to cause their effect, while other poisons are generally defined as substances which are absorbed through epithelial linings such as the skin or gut.


  • What's one man's poison, signior,
    Is another's meat or drink.
    • Beaumont and Fletcher, Love's Cure (c. 1612–13; revised c. 1625; published 1647), Act III, scene 2. Same in Lucretius, IV. 627.
  • I wanna taste you but your lips are venomous poison
    You're poison running through my veins
    You're poison I don't wanna break these chains
  • One probable hindrance to the adoption of chemical weapons by the United States was the Army’s Chief of Ordnance, Brigadier General James W. Ripley, who was notoriously hostile toward new weapons. Moreover, the use of poisons in war was commonly considered unethical, and an 1863 directive from the U.S. War Department (the “Lieber Code”) barred their use. Yet, just as some Northerners might have agreed with a snuff proponent from Vermont that “any mode of Warfare is honorable in putting down open rebellion,” some Southerners might have concurred with the Mississippian who argued that using strychnine and arsenic was justified against a foe “whose whole and sole aim is our destruction.” John Doughty considered the moral question of using chlorine and “arrived at the somewhat paradoxical conclusion, that its introduction would very much lessen the sanguinary character of the battlefield, and at the same time render conflicts more decisive in their results.” Confederate incendiaries expert John Cheves disapproved of poisoning and favored “stifling” the enemy “with the materials ordinarily used in war” as “more consonant with the spirit of the age” and “more practicable and quite as effectual.” He argued, “There is as much difference between poisoning and stifling as there is between throwing dust in a man’s eyes & putting his eyes out yet where only momentary blindness is wanted the first will do as well as the last.”
  • Son, I don't have money even to buy poison. Please help –
    • Dadasaheb Phalke in a letter to his son Bhalchandra in late 1930s, quoted in "Dadasaheb Phalke's family wants Bharat Ratna for him". Hindustan Times. 27 April 2013. Retrieved on 26 December 2013.
  • All things are poison and nothing is without poison; only the dose makes a thing not a poison.
    • Paracelsus "Die dritte Defension wegen des Schreibens der neuen Rezepte," Septem Defensiones 1538. Werke Bd. 2, Darmstadt 1965, p. 510 (full text)
  • Let me have
    A dram of poison, such soon-speeding gear
    As will disperse itself through all the veins
    That the life-weary taker may fall dead
    And that the trunk may be discharg'd of breath
    As violently as hasty powder fir'd
    Doth hurry from the fatal cannon's womb.

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 609-10.
  • Vipera Cappadocem nocitura mormordit; at illa Gustato peril sanguine Cappadocis.
    • A deadly echidna once bit a Cappadocian; she herself died, having tasted the Poison-flinging blood.
    • Demodocus, translation of his Greek Epigram.
  • Un gros serpent mordit Aurèle.
    Que croyez-vous qu'il arriva?
    Qu' Aurèle en mourut? Bagatelle!
    Ce fut le serpent qui creva.
    • In a manuscript commonplace book, written probably at end of 18th Cen. See Notes and Queries. March 30, 1907, p. 246.
  • Hier auprès de Charenton
    Un serpent morait Jean Fréron,
    Que croyez-vous qu'il arriva?
    Ce fut le serpent qui creva.
    • Imitation from the Greek. Found also in Œuvres Complèts de Voltaire, III, p. 1002. (1817). Printed as Voltaire's; attributed to Piron; claimed for Fréron.
  • The man recover'd of the bite,
    The dog it was that died.
    • Oliver Goldsmith, Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog. Same idea in Manasses—Fragmenta. Ed. Boissonade. I. 323. (1819).
  • While Fell was reposing himself in the hay,
    A reptile concealed bit his leg as he lay;
    But, all venom himself, of the wound he made light,
    And got well, while the scorpion died of the bite.
  • All men carry about them that which is poyson to serpents: for if it be true that is reported, they will no better abide the touching with man's spittle than scalding water cast upon them: but if it happen to light within their chawes or mouth, especially if it come from a man that is fasting, it is present death.
    • Pliny the Elder, Natural History, Book VII, Chapter II. Holland's translation.
  • In gährend Drachengift hast du
    Die Milch der frommen Denkart mir verwandelt.
    • To rankling poison hast thou turned in me the milk of human kindness.
    • Friedrich Schiller, Wilhelm Tell, IV. 3. 3.
  • Venenum in auro bibitur.
  • Talk no more of the lucky escape of the head
    From a flint so unhappily thrown;
    I think very different from thousands; indeed
    'Twas a lucky escape for the stone.
    • John Wolcot (Peter Pindar), On a Stone thrown at George III.
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