• Causing someone to sleep or feel drowsy


  • A substance causing sleep or drowsiness


Have you ever found yourself in a scenario where, in spite of how vital it was to pay attention, it seemed practically impossible to stay engaged? Maybe it was a sales meeting or a lecture, but no matter what you tried to stay attentive, you couldn't help but feel drained. What you experienced was a truly soporific presentation.

Soporific describes anything that involuntarily causes sleep. When soporific is used in its adjective form, it expresses something having a tiring or draining effect. What constitutes something soporific varies from person to person, and situation to situation: it could be the sound of someone's voice, whether it is monotonous or soothing in tone, a certain kind of music, or a wash of white noise. It also often suggests something that is unengaging or that induces boredom specifically, especially when used to describe a person's actions.

As a noun, soporific garners a more technical significance, describing a substance which is chemical or pharmaceutical in nature. Some common ones include sleeping medicine such as Ambien or Valium. Other examples of a soporific include anesthetics, tranquilizers, and sedatives, all of which are meant to have a sleep-inducing, or soporific, effect on patients. Even substances not medically or pharmaceutically intended to cause sleep can be referred to as soporifics, such as chamomile tea or that glass of warm milk before bed. Whether as an adjective or noun, though, soporific encapsulates anything that, as much as you might protest, sends you drifting off to sleep.

Example: The professor spoke in such a soporific tone that half of the students had fallen asleep by the end of the class.

Example: The traveler took a soporific in order to catch a nap during his flight.


As an adjective, soporific was first used sometime in the mid 17th century. It comes from the combination of the Latin "sopor," meaning "deep sleep," and the English suffix "ific" meaning "making or producing." It is related to the word "soporiferous," which entered English in the late 1500s, describing the quality of excessive sleep. It is also similar to the Latin "somnus," meaning "sleep." The noun form of soporific did not enter common usage in English until the early 18th century.

Derivative Words

Soporifically: This adverb form of soporific describes an action, specifically, as causing sleep. It is also used to imply slowness or inattentiveness.

Example: As their bedtime approached, the children walked soporifically to their beds.

In Literature

From Beatrix Potter's The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies:

It is said that the effect of eating too much lettuce is "soporific." I have never felt sleepy after eating lettuces; but then I am not a rabbit.

In this clever children's book by Beatrix Potter, the author uses soporific as an adjective to describe the effect that lettuce supposedly has - except not on the speaker.

From Ian McEwan's Sweet Tooth:

We were the only customers downstairs in the shop and there were no windows and only two dim bulbs, without shades. There was a pleasant soporific smell, as though the books had stolen most of the air.

Here, McEwan describes a bookstore so dark, yet inviting, that it beckons his customers to simply settle in and rest. Between the low lights and the sleep-inducing, or soporific, odor the old books give off, the setting is characterized as eminently comfortable.


  • A soporific will make your nap terrific.
  • Soporific: more like sleep-erific.


    Sleep, Drugs

Bring out the linguist in you! What is your own interpretation of soporific. Did you use soporific in a game? Provide an example sentence or a literary quote.