from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. a fluid containing arsenic, and used for secret poisoning, made by an Italian woman named Tofana, in the middle of the 17th century, who is said to have poisoned more than 600 persons.


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  • A poisonous liquid which excited extraordinary attention at Naples at the end of the seventeenth century. Tofana, a Sicilian woman, was strangled after having murdered hundreds of men with this poison.

    The drink is described as a transparent, tasteless water, of which five or six drops are fatal, producing death slowly, without pain, inflammation, convulsions or fever. Gradual decay of strength, disgust of life, want of appetite, and constant thirst were its more immediate effects, speedily causing... consumption. It was probably the same poison... as the Wine of Borgias.

    T. Ellwood Zell, popular Encyclopedia, 1871

    February 4, 2009