Thursday, May 3, 2012


Moonshine \MOON-shahyn\ , noun;
1. Smuggled or illicitly distilled liquor, especially corn liquor as illicitly distilled chiefly in rural areas of the southern U.S.

Moonshine is a combination of moon + shine, which is a common compound in Germanic languages. Most Americans probably associate moonshine with illicit alcohol, prohibition, and  illegal corn whiskey. That meaning is first attested in 1782, though the word is a few centuries older. The original meaning of moonshine was "moonlight," which dates to 1425. It can also mean "radiant sweetness," "pleasant distraction," "foolish or fanciful talk," and "a sweet, light pudding."

Some other words for illicit alcohol:
Poteen: 1812 from Irish poitin ("little pot")
Mountain dew: 1839
Pine-top: 1858
Bootleg: 1630's
White lightning: 1921

Another word for moonshine is poteen, which dates to 1812 as "illicit whiskey" from Irish poitin. Poitin means "little pot," so the idea is that it was liquor distilled in small quantities. It's based on English pot ("vessel").

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