noun pl. whis·keys,
- 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 of whiskey
Shortening and alteration of usquebaugh Word History:
The words water, whiskey,
flow from a common source, the 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,” 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 has a different suffix: *wod-ā.