Intermediate+ Word of the Day: dope

dope (noun, verb) /doʊp/ LISTEN

What a dope!

Dope is any narcotic or illegal drug (especially cannabis). More specifically, it is a narcotic used on race horses to improve or hold back their performance in a race. In technical use, dope is any thick liquid or pasty preparation used in preparing a surface, particularly a varnish for coating airplane wings. As a slang term, dope can mean ‘stupid person’ or, mainly in US English, ‘news, information.’ As a verb, to dope means ‘to give illicit drugs to’ or ‘to take illicit drugs.’

Example sentences

  • Ian went to his dealer to buy some dope.
  • The stable owner had been administering dope to his horses for years.
  • The airplane wings were coated with dope.
  • You've done it all wrong, you dope!
  • Paula got all the dope on the new guy from Kevin.
  • The racehorse owner was caught doping his horse.
  • The famous cyclist was stripped of his titles when people found out he had been doping.

Words often used with dope

dope out (slang): to work out. Example: “We doped out a way to earn some money fast.”

In pop culture

Taking performance enhancing drugs in sport is known as doping and has been a big problem for many years. Athletes have to undergo regular drugs tests, but normally seem to find ways to avoid getting caught. This short video will tell you more about doping in sports:

Did you know?

If you’ve every traveled to different parts of the English speaking world, you may have noticed that people have different names for carbonated soft drinks. In the US, they can even vary by state. The name you’ve probably heard the most in the media is soda, which is used on both the East and West Coasts, as well as a few other states. Pop is common in the Midwest and Pacific Northwest, and soda pop is used in the Mountain West. Dope, as well as soda dope, sodey dope and sody dope, were once common in the state of North Carolina, though it has become rare. Soda water, tonic and soft drink are also used in certain regions. As for the UK, it’s common to hear people call them carbonated drinks or fizzy drinks, though most would also understand soft drinks.


Dope, meaning ‘sauce, gravy or thick liquid,’ dates back to the early 19th century, and first appeared in American English. It comes from the Dutch dialectal word doop, meaning ‘thick sauce,’ which derived from the verb dopen (to dip). It can be traced back to the Proto-Germanic duppjan, and possible the Proto-Indo-European root dheub– (deep or hollow). It is, as such, related to the English words dip and deep. The figurative extension to mean ‘drug’ dates back to the late 19th century, and originally referred to opium, which was commonly smoked from a thick, gooey liquid preparation. The slang sense ‘stupid’ dates back to the mid-19th century, and probably evolved from concepts like ‘thick-headed.’ Finally, the sense of ‘information’ (especially ‘the inside information’) dates back to the early 20th century, and was probably a reference to knowing which horse was doped in a race. The verb comes from the noun, and dates back to the late 19th century.

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