15 January 2012

The etymology of "whisky"

The Strange Maps column at Big Think has an interesting map of single malt flavors, and an equally interesting footnote re the word whisky -

Uisge beatha is the Scottish Gaelic term from which the word "whisky" evolved.  It literally means "water of life."  The Latin words for "water of life" are aqua vitae, from which comes the Scandinavian word akvavit (another potent distilled liquor).  In French, "water of life" became eau de vie, (a fruit brandy).

And they note that the American and Irish drinks with similar names are typically spelled with an inserted "e" ("whiskey").


  1. It's actually originally from Irish, not Scots Gaelic...

  2. you decided not to go with the c word then eh? i'm sad. i always find it perplexing that the germanic name for body parts is so offensive as to be unmentionable but the latin name for the same part is the medical term. i'd like to know where we get our euphemisms and why.

  3. anon, i pulled the c- word post because it wound up in juxtaposition to a post about the women of Iran, and I considered the positioning to be inappropriate. And the Giants/Packers game was ready to start, so I didn't have time post any buffers in between. I still have it as a draft, and I'll repost it maybe tomorrow between a couple science things.

  4. I've read a LOT about Whisk(e)y and the best, most accessible book I've read lately is by Kate Hopkins (99 Drams of Whiskey...). She puts history and technical information together in a way that made me want to do more digging, but also dispels a number of myths along the way. It's a great (and quick) read.

  5. The Norman-French invaders of England perceived the Anglo-Saxon invaders of Britain inferior as with their culture, words that were in common usage became exactly that; common, not to be used; 'swear words'.


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