Drinking through the ages

Explore a wide range of historical synonyms for “drunk” with this timeline.

Click on the different words and you can learn more about their history, including their origins, use in popular phrases, and relevant historical citations. You can also click through the timeline panel below. If there is a dagger (†) next to the word, this means that the usage is obsolete. This timeline comes from David Crystal’s book "Words in Time and Place."

1200-09-01 00:00:00

fordrunken †

First recorded in one of King Alfred’s translations, it remained through Middle English.

1200-09-01 00:00:00

drunken

Similar to 'fordrunken', but without the intensifying force of the 'for-' prefix.

1330-09-01 00:00:00

cup-shotten †

One is ‘overcome with liquor’.

1340-09-01 00:00:00

drunk

The default term, a development of "drunken", and still the commonest usage.

1497-07-08 08:09:11

inebriate †

The first of the scholarly expressions, this word is from Latin inebriatus ‘intoxicated’.

1529-06-21 05:29:43

bousy

The first instance of boozy, spelled with 'ou' or 'ow' until the eighteenth century.

1564-06-11 05:49:24

tippled

A tippler was a retailer of ale – a tavern-keeper. (The word may be related to tap.)

1598-09-01 00:00:00

in drink

Shakespeare’s Falstaff has the first recorded use of the phrase in drink.

1611-09-01 00:00:00

reeling ripe

The widely used expression is reeling drunk – so drunk that one staggers around.

1627-09-01 00:00:00

high †

The use of high to mean ‘merry’ made it a natural description of someone drunk.

1656-09-01 00:00:00

fuddled

The verb fuddle, ‘to have a drinking bout’, is known from the late sixteenth century.

1687-09-01 00:00:00

concerned †

This euphemism became really popular in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

1701-09-01 00:00:00

oiled

Oiled must at first have meant ‘mildly drunk’.

1737-09-01 00:00:00

stewed

This is the first of the cooking-related slang substitutes for ‘drunk’.

1737-09-01 00:00:00

stiff

After the drunken fall, the rigid body.

1770-09-01 00:00:00

groggy †

Many a pirate story features the mixture of rum and water known as 'grog.'

1811-09-01 00:00:00

lushy

The noun lush arrived as low slang at the end of the eighteenth century.

1812-09-01 00:00:00

pissed

The word is chiefly British, along with 'pissed up', 'get pissed', and other expressions.

1821-09-01 00:00:00

three sheets (in the wind)

Nautical slang, this became one of the most widespread euphemisms for drunkenness.

1830-09-01 00:00:00

tight

The word seems to have taken a while to settle down as a recognized usage.

1842-09-01 00:00:00

pickled

The traditional process of pickling involves steeping in a preserving liquid (like alcohol).

1842-09-01 00:00:00

paralytic

An apt description of those who are so drunk that they are unable to do anything.

1855-09-01 00:00:00

squiffy

This description of someone a bit inebriated became popular among the upper classes.

1859-09-01 00:00:00

Elephant trunk

Cockney rhyming slang for drunk, also in the form elephant’s trunk.

1864-09-01 00:00:00

rotten

The idiom is usually to get rotten and seems to have originated in Australia.

1879-09-01 00:00:00

under the influence

An abbreviation of under the influence of drink or alcohol.

1890-09-01 00:00:00

loaded

As 'load' can mean 'to suppy in excess', its application to drink is understandable.

1899-09-01 00:00:00

toxic †

Advances in 19th-century medicine gave a new lease of life to the adjective 'toxic'.

1914-09-01 00:00:00

canned

Many products were being canned by 1914, such as milk and beef (though not yet beer).

1917-09-01 00:00:00

blotto

The analogy is probably with blots and blotting paper, which soaks up ink as a person soaks up drink.

1926-09-01 00:00:00

cock-eyed

The way drunkenness affects the eyes is a familiar source of new adjectives.

1943-09-01 00:00:00

plonked

Clearly from plonk, the facetious pronunciation of blanc (as in vin blanc ‘white wine’).

1955-09-01 00:00:00

schnockered

Probably, along with 'snockered' (1961), a jocular adaptation of 'snookered'.

1959-09-01 00:00:00

bombed

The most aggressive of all the slang expressions for ‘drunk’, suggestive of total incapacity.

1966-09-01 00:00:00

over the limit

Emerged from laws establishing a blood alcohol limit while driving.

1968-09-01 00:00:00

wasted

A description, popular among US teenagers, suggesting devastation of the mind and body.

1982-09-01 00:00:00

ratted

British slang for ‘drunk’.

Drinking through the ages

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