- a strong alcoholic liquor distilled from the fermented mash of grain, esp. of rye, wheat, corn, or barley
- a drink of whiskey
Origin: short for usquebaugh from Irish uisce beathadh (or Gaelic uisge beatha) from uisce, water plush beathadh, life from Indo-European base an unverified form gwi-, an unverified form gwei-, to live from source bio-
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also whis·kynoun pl. whis·keys also whis·kies
- An alcoholic liquor distilled from grain, such as corn, rye, or barley, and containing approximately 40 to 50 percent ethyl alcohol by volume.
- A drink of such liquor.
Origin: Shortening and alteration of usquebaugh.Word History: Many connoisseurs of fine whiskey wouldn't dream of contaminating their libations with water, but they really can't avoid it. Not only is water used in distilling whiskey, but the words whiskey and water share a common Indo-European root, *wed-, “water, wet.” This root could appear in several guises, as *wed-, *wod-, or *ud-. Water is a native English word that goes back by way of prehistoric Common Germanic *watar to the Indo-European suffixed form *wod-ōr, with an o. Whiskey is a shortened form of usquebaugh, which English borrowed from Irish Gaelic uisce beatha and Scottish Gaelic uisge beatha. This compound descends from Old Irish uisce, “water,” and bethad, “of life,” and meaning literally “water of life.” (It thus meant the same thing as the name of another drink, aquavit, which comes from Latin aqua vītae, “water of life.”) Uisce comes from the Indo-European suffixed form *ud-skio-. Finally, the name of another alcoholic drink, vodka, comes into English from Russian, where it means literally “little water,” as it is a diminutive of voda, “water”—a euphemism if ever there was one. Voda comes from the same Indo-European form as English water, but is differently suffixed: *wod-ā. Whiskey, water, and vodka—etymology can mix a potent cocktail.