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Up for some swallyin?”: Alcohol-Related Lingo1

In this article you will be brought up to speed with all the historical and totally hip and modern expressions, synonyms and slang words for alcohol, alcoholic beverages and the various states of intoxication as a result of alcohol consumption.

Historical synonyms
The Interesting Literature blog has written an article about several historical alcohol-related synonyms:

Historical synonyms for ‘partially drunk’ include: semi-bousy, tipsy, mellow, cherry-merry, groggified, squizzed, whiffled, and tiddly. In the past, synonyms for ‘drunk’ (that is, not just a little tipsy but full-on three sheets to the wind) included cup-shot, whip-cat, pottical, nappy, sack-sopped, bumspy, in the pots, tap-shackled, and fap.2

Some further antiquated terms:

Capernoited [Brit. /kapəˈnɔɪti/, U.S. /ˌkæpərˈnɔɪdi/]: slightly muddled in the head as a result of drink.
Spifflicated [/ˈspιflιkeιtιd/]: synonym for ‘drunk’, coined by American writer O. Henry.
Genevered [Brit. /dʒᵻˈniːvɪd/, U.S. /dʒəˈnivɪd/]: to be drunk specifically on gin; it appears in a work of 1759 by Edward Young.
A 1913 New York Times article on portmanteaus includes the word alcoholiday [Brit. /ˌalkəˈhɒlᵻdeɪ/, U.S. /ˌælkəˈhɑləˌdeɪ/], describing leisure time spent drinking.
Brannigan [/ˈbranɪɡən/]: a drinking spree.
Quaff-tide [Brit. /kwɒftʌɪd / , U.S. /kwɑftaɪd/]: an Elizabethan word meaning ‘the season for drinking’.
Ombibulous [Brit. /ˈɒmˈbɪbjʊləs/, U.S. /ˈɑmˈbɪbjʊləs/]: someone who will drink anything. This word has been coined by H. L. Mencken, who used it to describe himself.
Shotclog [Brit. /ʃɒtklɒɡ/, U.S. /ʃɑtklɑɡ/]: ‘a drinking companion who is tolerated because they pay for the drinks’.
Quaffer [Brit. /ˈkwɒfə/, U.S. /ˈkwɑfər/]: a drink that is especially pleasant.
Muckibus [Brit. /mʌkɪbəs/, U.S. /məkɪbəs/]: ‘drunkenly sentimental’. It is first recorded in a 1756 letter by the Gothic novelist Horace Walpole.

In the seventeenth century, humpty-dumpty [/ˈhʌm(p)tɪˈdʌm(p)ti/] was the name given to a drink of ale boiled with brandy.

Fearnought [/ˈfɪənɔːt/]: ‘a drink to keep up the spirits’. It is first recorded in Lew Wallace’s 1880 novel Ben-Hur.
Pot-valiant [Brit. /pɒtˈvalɪənt/, U.S. /pɑtˈvæljənt/]: ‘courageous because of drink’.
Amethyst [/ˈæmɪθɪst/]: literally means ‘not drunk’ or ‘without drunkenness’, since the precious stone was thought to prevent drunkenness.
Bladderclock [Brit. /ˈbladəˈklɒk/, U.S. /ˈblædərˈklɑk/]: drinking the right amount of water so that you wake up at the right time in the morning.3

Present-day synonyms of ‘alcohol’
The thesaurus of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary provides the following list of synonyms for the word ‘alcohol’:

aqua vitae [/ˌeɪkwəˈvʌɪtiː/]
ardent spirits [Brit. /ˈɑːdəntˈspɪrɪts/, U.S. /ˈɑːdəntˈspɪrᵻts/]
booze [Brit. /buːz/, U.S. /buz/]
firewater [Brit. /ˈfʌɪəˌwɔːtə/, U.S. /ˈfaɪ(ə)rˌwɔdər/,/ˈfaɪ(ə)rˌwɑdər/]
grog [Brit. /ɡrɒɡ/, U.S. /ɡrɑɡ/]. According to the OED, a grog is “[a]drink consisting of spirits (originally rum) and water. half and half grog, a drink made of equal parts of spirits and water; seven-water grog, a contemptuous name among sailors for very weak grog”.
inebriant [/ɪˈniːbrɪənt/]
John Barleycorn [Brit. /dʒɒnˈbɑːlikɔːn/, U.S. /dʒɑnˈbɑrlikɔ(ə)rn/], according to the OED: “also Sir John Barleycorn: (A personification of) barley, or of alcoholic drink made from barley.”
potable [Brit. /ˈpəʊtəbl/, U.S. /ˈpoʊdəb(ə)l/]
tipple [/ˈtɪp(ə)l/]4

Slang words
The Online Slang Dictionary provides us some interesting slang words:

Long Island Ice Tea [Brit. /lɒŋ ˈʌɪlənd ʌɪs tiː/, U.S. /lɔŋ ˈaɪlənd aɪs ti/,/lɑŋ ˈaɪlənd aɪs ti/] (also called a “Long Island Iced Tea”): a strong alcoholic mixed drink.
• Alternative term for Long Island Ice Tea: 516 [Brit. /fʌɪvsɪkˈstiːn/, /fʌɪvˈsɪkstiːn/, U.S. /faɪvsɪkˈstiːn/, faɪvˈsɪkstiːn/]: 516 is the telephone area code for the western portion of New York’s Long Island. “Man, I could really go for a 516 right about now”.
Ass whup [/æswəp/]: whiskey or other strong liquor. “Give me a slug of that ass whup”.
Irish handcuffs [Brit. /ˈʌɪrɪʃ ˈhan(d)kʌf/, U.S. /ˈaɪrɪʃ ˈhæn(d)ˌkəf/]: two drinks: one for each hand.
Lunatic soup [Brit. /ˈl(j)uːnətɪk suːp/, U.S. /ˈl(j)uːnətɪk sup/: “Have you been drinking lunatic soup again?”
Time travel juice [Brit. /ˈtʌɪm ˌtravl dʒuːs/, U.S. /ˈtaɪm ˌtrævəl dʒus/]: “I don’t remember last night at all. I must have had too much time travel juice.”
Wounded soldier [Brit. / ˈwuːndɪd ˈsəʊldʒə/, U.S. /ˈwuːndɪd ˈsoʊldʒər/]: an abandoned, partially consumed alcoholic beverage. “Hey! Who left this wounded soldier on the kitchen counter?”5

Drinkfox gives the most popular alcohol slang names:

Booze [Brit. /buːz/, U.S. /buz/]: probably one of the most widely used slang names for alcohol. The term dates back to the 14th Century and was traditionally used when describing drinking alcohol to excess.
Hooch [Brit. /huːtʃ/, U.S. /hutʃ/]: a term that was traditionally used to describe alcohol that was home-made, and became a wide-spread slang name during the time of prohibition when alcohol had to be made illicitly.
Moonshine [Brit. /ˈmuːnʃʌɪn/, U.S. /ˈmunˌʃaɪn/]: another slang name that was once used to describe alcohol that was produced illicitly, traditionally corn whisky.
Toddy [Brit. /ˈtɒdi/, U.S. /ˈtɑdi/] The term “toddy” comes from the traditional alcoholic drink that consisted of warm liquor, usually rum, mixed with water, spices and sugar.
Red-eye [Brit. /ˈrɛdʌɪ/, U.S. /ˈrɛdˌaɪ/] Red-eye traditionally refers to a cheap whiskey but is today a slang name for other types of alcohol too, probably for the effects that alcohol can sometimes have on the eyes.
Juice [Brit. /dʒuːs/, U.S. /dʒus/]: slang name for alcohol that can be used very inoffensively in public situations.6

Slang For ‘Beer’
There are so many slang words for ‘beer’ that it warrants its own section. The Brookston Beer Bullitin has a long list that contains some real gems - and even some Old English words for those who want to impress people with their knowledge on beer:

• æfterealo (Old English; weak beer)
• aiming fluid (when playing darts, pool, etc.)
• amber nectar
• angels’ food (1577; strong ale)
• audit ale (1823)
• barley sandwich (lunchtime)
• bed-ale (1880)
• belch (1706–1858; weak beer)
• brewski
• clerk-ale (1791)
• cold coffee
• ealu (Old English; ale)
• eyebright (1610)
• flux ale (1742)
• fourpenny ale (1871)
• Germaine Greer (1990s; Australia)
• glass sandwich
• huff-cap (1577–1630 + 1884; strong ale)
• hugmatee (1699-1704)
• inky-pinky (1835–1842 Scotland; weak beer)
• Jesus juice
• laughing water (strong beer)
• liquid bread
• mad dog (1577; strong ale)
• mealtealoþ (Old English; ale)
• merry-go-down (1500–1599; strong ale)
• neck-oil (1860)
• needle-beer (1928; strong beer)
• nippitaty (strong ale)
• penny-ale (1362–1544; cheap ale)
• Pharaoh/Old Pharaoh (1683–1839; strong ale)
• pig’s ear (1880)
• pudding-ale (1377; cheap ale)
• strike-me-dead (1824; Nautical; weak beer)
• swankey/swanky (1841)
• swatan (Old English)
• swing oil (when playing golf)
• tangle-leg(s) (1880)
• twibrowen ealoþ (Old English)
• twoops (1729)
• vitamin B
• voiding beer (c. 1600; beer drunk on departure)
• wylisc eala (Old English)
• yeoman ale (1532; second-quality ale)7

Alcohol-related slang around the world

Mickey [/ˈmikē/]:A flask-size bottle of liquor bought on occasions when you need to keep things low-key. “I’m just grabbing a mickey for tonight. I have to work in the morning.”9 According to the National Post, the term ‘mickey’ is used by 88% of Canadians. It refers to [a] 375 ml bottle of liquor. In the United States, the term “mickey” is slang term for a date rape drug, and 69% of Americans were unaware of its more benign Canadian usage. Mickey is actually one of a series of uniquely Canadian booze measurements revealed by the survey. “Two four” (a case of 24 beers), “twenty sixer” (a 750 ml bottle of liquor) and “forty-pounder” (a 1.14 liter bottle of liquor) were all virtually unknown outside the Great White North.9

Givin’ ‘er: used to describe any act carried out with extreme exuberance or to its fullest potential. “We were just Giv’n’r last night.” Often used to describe heavy alcohol drinking and partying.10

An anonymous source provided us with information about some little known Canadian drinking habits:

Aside from drinking milk out of plastic bags (this is true), Canadian drinking habits are not unlike those of other nations. There is, however, one key Canadian slang term of relevance here, which is “two-four”. On a surface level, “two-four” refers to a case of twenty four (usually domestic) bottles of beer (Canadians like to have enough beer that they can share lots with others). But the term is also used in Canada colloquially to refer to the holiday Monday that marks the birth of Queen Victoria, on May 24th (i.e. “the ‘May two-four’ weekend”). usage reflects some mild Canadian humour, since May two-four is the weekend that, recovering from the harsh Canadian winter, Canadians tend to hold barbeques or open their cabins for the year, and both events are often marked by general conviviality, so some Canadians will buy a “two four” to celebrate “May two four.” To complicate matters further, a “two by four” refers to a piece of lumber with those dimensions in inches, which is a common size for construction projects (the easy-going attitude of Canadians is unfortunately reflected in Canadians’ rather inconsistent adoption of metrication, which means that Canadians will measure distances in meters, heights in inches, outside temperatures in Celsius, cooking temperatures in Fahrenheit, sometimes all within the same sentence). So it would not be unheard of for a Canadian on May two-four to repair a cabin with two-by-fours while drinking from a two-four (perhaps while it was 24 degrees Celsius outside). The term therefore encapsulates many aspects of Canadian identity: a neighbourly attitude, mild humour, recovering from unreasonably cold temperatures, a wayward approach to metrication, and a reliance on the lumber industry.

Terrance and Phillip cosplayers during the 2016 Montreal Comiccon.
© Pikawil from Laval, Canada, via Wikimedia Commons.

Australia reports that

Australia has a history of liking alcohol a bit too much. Records from 1861 in Queensland tell us there was one pub for approximately every 39 people. (The population was mostly male). Alcohol sales were an extremely profitable business, especially with popular drinks like Smokey Rum, White Lightning and Tarantula Juice.
Smokey Rum was a particularly nasty drink
[...], a combination of rum and colonial tobacco fermented together. It was so strong that it was risky to even inhale the brew. Tarantula Juice, on the other hand, brought you to a near death experience, driving some insane.10

Australian slang words for alcohol11:
Bundy [/bʌndi:/]: Bundaberg Rum
Champers /ˈʃæmpəz/: champagne
Black Velvet /blæk ˈvelvət/ : drink made of champagne and stout
Goom /gu:m//gʊm/: drink of methylated spirits drunk by vagrants
Plonk /plɒŋk/: cheap wine, also means ‘drunk’. According to the Australian Oxford Dictionary, the word is “probably a corruption of blanc in French vin blanc ‘white wine’.”
Turps /tə:ps/: slang for strong alcohol liquor, also short for ‘turpentine’

Australian alcohol-related slang words12:
BYO: ‘Bring Your Own’ drink. If you’re invited to a party and asked BYO drink, you need to bring a drink. If you are drinking alcohol, you need to bring an alcoholic drink. However, if you’re drinking a soft drink or juice, you can bring that instead. BYO restaurants... means if you want it, you need to bring your own alcohol (beer, wine, etc.), but not soft drinks.
Corkage /ˈkɔ:kɪdʒ/: Fee charged by some restaurants if you BYO. Corkage is charged even if you open and pour your own drink. Fees vary greatly so ask about corkage when making a reservation.
Shout /ʃaʊt/: To buy a drink at a pub for everyone in your group. “Someone else should do the next shout.”
Skull /skʌl/: drink your drink in one go
Bottle Shop /ˈbɒtəl ʃɒp/: store where you buy alcoholic beverages
Spiffed /spɪft/: drunk, intoxicated. Not to be confused with ‘spiffs’, which are incentives given to sales people.
Chockers /ˈtʃɒkəs/: drunk

According to news site The Influence, the Scots “have at least 30 different terms for drunkenness, as assembled by Sofiane Kennouche at The Scotsman. Some of these (“plastered,” “rat-arsed”) are shared with the rest of the UK. Others (“pished,” “oot the game”) have small adaptations of accent. Others still (“foutered,” “minkit,” “toteroo”) are surely incomprehensible to non-Scots:

• Blitzed
• Tanked-up
• Oot yer tree
• Sloshed
• Boozy kind
• Minced
• Buckled
• Foutered
• Minced
• Pished
• Hammered
• Howlin’
• Reekin’
• Guttered
• Oot the game
• Trollied
• Sozzled
• Minkit
• Rat-arsed
• Rubbered
• Steamboats
• Mingin’
• Slaughtered
• Plastered
• Sottered
• Tooteroo
• Wrecked
• Ruined
• Goosed
• Tramlined13

Irish slang words and expressions for ‘drunk’14:
Langered/Langers. “We were all langers”
Fluthered. “He was fluthered again”
Stocious. “He was stocious this evening”
Bladdered. “I was completely bladdered last night”
Full as a 9 weel keyart: Intoxicated to the point of falling down
As full as a Catholic School: So drunk you couldn’t take any more
Pished as a fart: to be extremely drunk
Talkin’ like a wet wellyboot: Very drunk
Wrote off: Donegal15 term for someone wasted
Full as a bingo bus on a friday evenin’: The person in question was quite intoxicated

Ireland even has sayings for not being drunk:

As full as a paisley church on sunday
As full as the last bus home

Irish slang words for alcoholic drinks and consuming alcohol:

Volvo: Vodka and coke
On the rip: going on the drink, going to the pub. “Here fella, you gonna go on the rip?”
Lily The Pink: Rhyming slang for ‘drink’ meaning an alcohol drink; beer, spirits, or a cocktail. “You going out for a few lillys?”
Fancy a few scoops? Would you like to partake in the consumation of a number of sociable drinks with my good self?
Swallyin’: Swallowing - usually referring to drinking. “Up for some Swallyin?”
The hair of the dog: After a night of boozing it’s the drink that’s supposed to cure the headache.” Aye right jack LOL”
Downing the Black: Drinking a Guinness.
Shuck water: Donegal saying for Guinness
Mother’s ruin: Gin
My mouth’s licka fur boot: Dehydrated (normally associated with a hangover)
“Awk ye couldn’t drink tae!”16: You are very poor at drinking

With these new terms and slang words you can spice up your vocabulary when travelling to an English-speaking country this summer. But we certainly do not recommend that you become as full as a Catholic School. Better just grab a mickey, your liver will be thankful.

by Birgitte Breemerkamp


1. All phonemic transcriptions in this article are taken from Oxford English Dictionary (OED), unless stated otherwise.

2. Interesting Literature Blog

3. Ibid.

4. Merriam-Webster Dictionary

5. The Online Slang Dictionary


7.The Brookston Beer Bullitin

8. Buzzfeed

9.The National Post


12.Phonemic transcriptions in this section are from the Australian Oxford Dictionary (2 ed.), Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

14.Donegal is a county in Ireland


16. ‘tae’ could very well be a typo in the original source