the wonderful suzie dent just explained this word on countdown:

In its original application, “nocebo” had a very specific meaning in the medical domains of pharmacology, and nosology, and etiology.

It was a subject-oriented adjective that was used to label the harmful, unpleasant, or undesirable reactions (or responses) that a subject manifested (thus, “nocebo reactions” or “nocebo responses”) as a result of administering an inert dummy drug, where these responses had not been chemically generated, and were entirely due to the subject’s pessimistic belief and expectation that the inert drug would produce harmful, injurious, unpleasant, or undesirable consequences.

In these cases, there is no “real” drug involved, but the actual harmful, unpleasant or undesirable physiological, behavioural, emotional, and/or cognitive consequences of the administration of the inert drug are very real.

The term “nocebo response” originally only meant an unpredictable unintentional belief-generated injurious response to an inert procedure, but there is an emerging practice of labelling drugs that produce unpleasant consequences as “nocebo drugs” meaning that the term “nocebo response” may be used to label an intentional, entirely pharmacologically-generated and quite predictably injurious outcome that has ensued from the administration of an active (nocebo) drug.[citation needed]

Anthropologists use the term “nocebo ritual” to describe a procedure, treatment, or ritual that has been performed (or a herbal remedy or medication that has been administered) with malicious intent, by contrast with a placebo procedure or treatment or ritual that is performed with a benevolent intent.

An example of nocebo effect would be someone who dies of fright after being bitten by a non-venomous snake.


rather fitting me thinks. story of my bloodclart life.

ah egdon you’ll delude me no longer…