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Whisky words: uisge beatha

Whisky words: uisge beatha

Uisge beatha is the Scottish Gaelic term for ‘water of life’ with uisge simply meaning water and beatha meaning life. It is a straightforward translation of the Latin ‘aqua vitae’.

Over time and through common use in Scotland, uisge beatha was shortened and ‘uisge’ became known as ‘whisky’.

Uisce beatha (spelled with a c) was the name given by Irish monks of the early Middle Ages to distilled alcohol.

There are several different terms that all basically translate to ‘water of life’:

Uisge beatha

(Scottish Gaelic), Scotch whisky

Uisce beatha

(Irish), Irish whiskey

Eau de vie

(French), brandy

Aqua vitae

(Latin), brandy or distilled spirits

According to Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, aqua vitae was also “the name used for certain ardent spirits employed by alchemists. Ben Jonson calls a vendor of one such an ‘aquavitae man’ (Alchemist, I, i [1612])”

And, let’s not forget, that ‘the elixir of life’ (supposed potion of the alchemists that would prolong life indefinitely) was made from distilled spirits.

Slàinte 🥃

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