An assortment of alcoholic beverages




  • Entered in the early 15th c. from Middle English alcofol, from Middle French alcohol or Spanish alcohol, derived from the Medieval Latin rendering alcohol transmitted in medical or alchemical literature of Arabic كحل, which in Andalusian Arabic also bore the form كُحُول, قُحُول; bearing thus the meaning of stibnite first, then generalized in meaning to a powder obtained by triturating a material, then also to liquids obtained by boiling down, and specialized to mean spirit of wine, ethanol, in the 18th century, then the narrow chemical sense after 1850.
  • Bartholomew Traheron in his 1543 translation of John of Vigo introduces the word as a term used by "barbarous" (Moorish) authors for "fine powder": the barbarous auctours use alcohol, or (as I fynde it sometymes wryten) alcofoll, for moost fine poudre.
  • William Johnson in his 1657 Lexicon Chymicum glosses the word as antimonium sive stibium. By extension, the word came to refer to any fluid obtained by distillation, including "alcohol of wine", the distilled essence of wine.
  • Libavius in Alchymia (1594) has vini alcohol vel vinum alcalisatum.
  • Johnson (1657) glosses alcohol vini as quando omnis superfluitas vini a vino separatur, ita ut accensum ardeat donec totum consumatur, nihilque fæcum aut phlegmatis in fundo remaneat.
  • Some authorities, including Rachel Hajar, suggest that the ultimate etymon was the Arabic term غول (as used in Qur’an verse , but this word is rather poetical and could for topical reasons not have been picked up from Arabic by Medieval writers, and aside from that the relation to stibium is well documented.
  • alcool, and kohl.

Modern English dictionary

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