I saw yesterday a car with some whiskey branding, and it was spelled “Whisky”. So I started wondering what’s the real spelling of this word.
So I started looking for some help.
Whisky (Scottish Gaelic: uisge-beatha), or whiskey (Irish: uisce beatha or fuisce), refers to a broad category of alcoholic beverages that are distilled from fermented grain mash and aged in wooden casks (generally oak).
Different grains are used for different varieties, including: barley, malted barley, rye, malted rye, wheat, and maize (corn). Whisky derives from the Gaelic word for “water” (uisce or uisge), and is called in full uisge-beatha (in Scotland) or uisce beatha (Ireland), meaning “Water of Life”. It is related to the Latin aqua vitae, also meaning “water of life”. It is always Scotch whisky (plural: whiskies), and Irish whiskey (whiskeys).
Word History: Many connoisseurs of fine whiskey wouldn’t dream of contaminating their libations with water, but they really can’t avoid it. Not only is water used in distilling whiskey, but the words whiskey and water share a common Indo-European root, *wed-, “water, wet.” This root could appear in several guises, as *wed-, *wod-, or *ud-. Water is a native English word that goes back by way of prehistoric Common Germanic *watar to the Indo-European suffixed form *wod-?r, with an o. Whiskey is a shortened form of usquebaugh, which English borrowed from Irish Gaelic uisce beatha and Scottish Gaelic uisge beatha. This compound descends from Old Irish uisce, “water,” and bethad, “of life,” and meaning literally “water of life.” (It thus meant the same thing as the name of another drink, aquavit, which comes from Latin aqua v?tae, “water of life.”) Uisce comes from the Indo-European suffixed form *ud-skio-. Finally, the name of another alcoholic drink, vodka, comes into English from Russian, where it means literally “little water,” as it is a diminutive of voda, “water”—a euphemism if ever there was one. Voda comes from the same Indo-European form as English water, but is differently suffixed: *wod-?. Whiskey, water, and vodka—etymology can mix a potent cocktail.
So I’ll stick to my “Whiskey” spelling.
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