Mescaline is a psychedelic drug that comes from the peyote cactus, which is indigenous to Central America. However, it's more than just the hallucinogen that comes from there- the word does too! Mescaline has actually been steeped in Native American cultures for almost 6,000 years, and, through an initial borrowing in German as mezcalin, its name derives from the mescal cactus (a kind of peyote). This in turn comes from the Nahuatl word mexcalli, which meant "agave stew", because mescaline was often ingested via that medium. Obviously the scientific suffix -ine, meaning a type of substance, was added later. Since the word mescaline was first coined in English in 1896, its usage steadily increased until the early 1970s, until it decreased almost three times, due to decreased availability as a result of higher federal regulation of the drug.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.