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[ton-ik] /ˈtɒn ɪk/
a medicine that invigorates or strengthens:
a tonic of sulphur and molasses.
anything invigorating physically, mentally, or morally:
His cheerful greeting was a real tonic.
Music. the first degree of the scale; the keynote.
Chiefly Eastern New England. soda pop.
Phonetics. a tonic syllable or accent.
pertaining to, maintaining, increasing, or restoring the tone or health of the body or an organ, as a medicine.
invigorating physically, mentally, or morally.
Physiology, Pathology.
  1. pertaining to tension, as of the muscles.
  2. marked by continued muscular tension:
    a tonic spasm.
using differences in tone or pitch to distinguish between words that are otherwise phonemically identical:
a tonic language.
pertaining to tone or accent in speech.
Phonetics. (of a syllable) bearing the principal stress or accent, usually accompanied by a change in pitch.
  1. of or relating to a tone or tones.
  2. pertaining to or founded on the keynote, or first tone, of a musical scale:
    a tonic chord.
1640-50; < Greek tonikós pertaining to stretching or tones. See tone, -ic
Related forms
tonically, adverb
antitonic, adjective, noun
nontonic, adjective
pretonic, noun, adjective
2. stimulant, restorative, bracer, pickup.
Regional variation note
5. See soda pop.


a combining form occurring in adjectives that correspond to nouns ending in -tonia:
see tonic Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for tonic
  • As befits the pointy-headed elevation of all simple things, gourmet attention is now being paid to the humble gin and tonic.
  • After the solitude of graduate research, that's a powerful tonic.
  • The best way is a gin and tonic in the lounge and a couple on the flight.
  • Hair tonic poisoning occurs when someone swallows this substance.
  • The view from the verandah is almost as tonic as what's blending with the ice in my gin.
  • They would lie on their verandas in a pool of sweat, fanning themselves and sipping on gin and tonic.
  • The tonic neck position is often described as the fencer's position because it resembles the stance of a fencer.
  • They have a way of sticking to the roof of your mouth that might be fine in peanut butter, but not in a gin and tonic.
  • The patient had probably developed an allergy from the small amount of quinine contained in tonic water.
  • It is a sedative to the viscera, a tonic, antipyretic.
British Dictionary definitions for tonic


a medicinal preparation intended to improve and strengthen the functioning of the body or increase the feeling of wellbeing
anything that enlivens or strengthens: his speech was a tonic to the audience
Also called tonic water. a mineral water, usually carbonated and containing quinine and often mixed with gin or other alcoholic drinks
  1. the first degree of a major or minor scale and the tonal centre of a piece composed in a particular key
  2. a key or chord based on this
a stressed syllable in a word
serving to enliven and invigorate: a tonic wine
of or relating to a tone or tones
(music) of or relating to the first degree of a major or minor scale
of or denoting the general effect of colour and light and shade in a picture
(physiol) of, relating to, characterized by, or affecting normal muscular or bodily tone: a tonic spasm
of or relating to stress or the main stress in a word
denoting a tone language
Derived Forms
tonically, adverb
Word Origin
C17: from New Latin tonicus, from Greek tonikos concerning tone, from tonostone
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for tonic

1640s, "relating to or characterized by muscular tension," from Greek tonikos "of stretching," from tonos "a stretching" (see tenet). The meaning "maintaining the healthy firmness of tissues" is recorded from 1680s, first extended 1756 to "having the property of restoring to health."


"a tonic medicine," 1799, from tonic (adj.).

in the musical sense, 1760, from tone (n.) + -ic. Related: Tonicity.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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tonic in Medicine

tonic ton·ic (tŏn'ĭk)

  1. Of or producing tone or tonicity in muscles or tissue.

  2. Characterized by continuous tension or contraction of muscles, as a convulsion or spasm.

  3. Producing or stimulating physical, mental, or emotional vigor.

An agent, such as a medication, that restores or increases body tone.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Slang definitions & phrases for tonic


  1. A large extent, amount, or number: I have a ton of work
  2. A speed of 100 miles an hour; a high speed (1954+ Teenagers & car racing)

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Encyclopedia Article for tonic

in music, the first note (degree) of any diatonic (e.g., major or minor) scale. It is the most important degree of the scale, serving as the focus for both melody and harmony. The term tonic may also refer to the tonic triad, the chord built in thirds from the tonic note (as C-E-G in C major). See also tonality.

Learn more about tonic with a free trial on
Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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