Fun Etymology Tuesday – Alcohol

Aaaand it’s Tuesday again! I’ll admit, I enjoy doing your FunEty every week, it is such an interesting way to learn more stuff! I hope that you agree!

Let’s talk “alcohol”! This word came to English during the early 15th century as “alcofol”, meaning any very fine powder! This word comes from Latin alcohol, meaning the powdered ore of antimony, ‫but‬ ultimately derived from Arabic ‫اَلْكُحْل‬‎ “al-kuhl” which was the metallic powder used to darken the eyelids! “Al-“ is the definite article “the” in Arabic and “kuhl” comes from the Arabic word “kahala”, meaning to stain or paint.

By the late 17th century, alcohol was used in English to mean the pure spirit of anything, including liquids, but we have to wait all the way until 1753 before it is first recorded to mean the intoxicating ingredient in strong liquor, which was then extended to meaning the intoxicating element in fermented liquors!

Goodness, that’s quite a trip! Join us next time when we look a bit closer at the word liquor, which doesn’t always (or at least didn’t always) refer to alcoholic drinks. Welcome back!

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