AskDefine | Define psychedelic

Dictionary Definition

psychedelic adj
1 producing distorted sensory perceptions and feelings or altered states of awareness or sometimes states resembling psychosis; "psychedelic drugs like psilocybin and mescaline"
2 having the vivid colors and bizarre patterns associated with psychedelic states; "a psychedelic painting"
3 of a mental state characterized by intense and distorted perceptions and hallucinations and feelings of euphoria or sometimes despair; "a psychedelic experience"

User Contributed Dictionary



  • /ˈsaɪ.kəˌdɛl.ɪk/|/ˈsaɪ.kɪˌdɛl.ɪk/; /"saI.k@%dEl.Ik/|/"saI.KI%dEl.Ik/ a UK
  • a US


  1. Of, containing or generating hallucinations, distortions of perception, altered awareness etc


of, containing or generating hallucinations, etc.
  • French: psychédélique
  • German: psychedelisch
  • Italian: psichedelico
  • Romanian: psihedelic
  • Spanish: psicodélico, sicodélico


  1. Any psychoactive substance (such as LSD or Psilocybin) which, when consumed, causes perceptual changes (sometimes erratic and uncontrollable), visual hallucination, and altered awareness of the body and mind.


  1. In the context of "1960s hippy slang": awesome, cool, groovy

Related terms

Extensive Definition

For "psychedelics," see psychedelic drug.
The word psychedelic is an English term coined from the Greek words for "soul," ψυχή (psyche), and "manifest," δήλος (delos). A psychedelic experience is characterized by the perception of aspects of one's mind previously unknown, or by the creative exuberance of the mind liberated from its ostensibly ordinary fetters. Psychedelic states are an array of experiences elicited by sensory deprivation as well as by psychedelic substances. Such experiences include hallucinations, changes of perception, synesthesia, altered states of awareness, mystical states, and occasionally states resembling psychosis.
The term was first coined as a noun in 1957 by psychiatrist Humphry Osmond as an alternative descriptor for hallucinogenic drugs in the context of psychedelic psychotherapy. The term featured prominently in a now-famous exchange with Aldous Huxley, in which the little-used term phanerothyme (derived from roots relating to "spirit" or "soul") was suggested:
To make this trivial world sublime,
take half a gram of phanerothyme.
Osmond responded:
To fathom Hell or soar angelic,
just take a pinch of psychedelic.
Timothy Leary, who was largely responsible for the popularization of the term "psychedelic", was a well-known proponent of their use, as was Aldous Huxley. Both, however, advanced widely different opinions on the broad use of psychedelics by state and civil society. Leary promulgated the idea of such substances as a panacea, while Huxley suggested that only the cultural and intellectual elite should partake of entheogens systematically.
The use of psychedelic drugs became widespread in the modern West in the mid-1960s. One of the first uses of the word in the music scene of this time was in the 1964 recording of "Hesitation Blues" by the Holy Modal Rounders. The term was introduced to rock music and popularized by the 13th Floor Elevators 1966 album The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators.


The fashion for psychedelic drugs gave its name to the visual style of psychedelia, a term describing a category of rock music known as psychedelic rock, visual art, fashion, and culture that is associated originally with the high 1960s, hippies, and the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco, California. Psychedelia generally began in 1966, but truly took off in 1967 with the Summer of Love. Although associated with San Francisco, the style soon spread across the US, and worldwide.
The counterculture of the 1960s had a strong influence on the popular culture of the early 1970s, and is well recognized even by those who are naïve to its psychedelic origins. It later became linked to a style of electronic dance music commonly known as psytrance (Also known as Psychedelic Trance or Goa Trance)

Modern usage

The impact of psychedelic drugs on western culture in the 1960s led to semantic drift in the use of the word "psychedelic", and it is now frequently applied to describe any brightly patterned or colored object. In objection to this new meaning, and to what some consider pejorative meanings of other synonyms such as "hallucinogen" and "psychotomimetic", the term "entheogen" was proposed and is seeing increasing use. However, many consider the term "entheogen" best reserved for religious and spiritual usage, such as certain Native American churches do with the peyote sacrament, and "psychedelic" left to describe those who are using these drugs for recreation, psychotherapy, physical healing, or creative problem solving. In science, hallucinogen remains the standard term.
At the same time as psychedelic drugs were being used by the counterculture of the 1960s, they were also being used in experiments by governments, who saw them and sensory deprivation as useful agents for mind control; see MKULTRA for the CIA involvement in the use of psychedelic drugs.


psychedelic in Danish: psykedelisk
psychedelic in German: Psychedelisch
psychedelic in Spanish: Psicodelia
psychedelic in French: Psychédélisme
psychedelic in Italian: Psichedelico
psychedelic in Lithuanian: Psichodelija
psychedelic in Dutch: Psychedelisch
psychedelic in Japanese: サイケデリック
psychedelic in Polish: Psychodelia
psychedelic in Portuguese: Psicodélico
psychedelic in Russian: Психоделия
psychedelic in Simple English: Psychedelic
psychedelic in Swedish: Psykedelisk

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

DET, DMT, LSD, Mary Jane, STP, THC, acid, antidepressant, ataractic, consciousness-expanding, diethyltryptamine, dimethyltryptamine, gage, ganja, grass, hallucinational, hallucinative, hallucinatory, hallucinogen, hallucinogenic, hash, hashish, hay, hemp, joint, kava, marijuana, mescal, mescal bean, mescal button, mescaline, mind-altering drug, mind-blowing, mind-blowing drug, mind-expanding, mind-expanding drug, morning glory seeds, peyote, pot, psilocin, psilocybin, psychic energizer, psychoactive drug, psychochemical, psychotomimetic, reefer, roach, stick, tea, tranquilizer, weed
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