Whiskey was first attested in the English language in 1715, but the word was around the British Isles for quite a while longer, seeing as the beverage was invented in Scotland in the 1490s. Their language was Gaelic, however, where they called it uisge beatha, meaning "water of life". You can tell they valued their alcohol! Uisge, defined as "water", came from Old Irish uisce, which, through Proto-Celtic udenskyos, comes from the Proto-Indo-European reconstruction wed (all of these forms also meant plain old "water"). Beatha, meaning "life", also derives from Old Irish, in this case from bethu, which, through Proto-Celtic biwotus, also traces to Proto-Indo-European, in this case the root gweyh. Likewise, all of these terms meant "life" as well. One curious part of this origin is that the competing theory also traces it to "water of life", but just in another language: some etymologists think it stems from Latin aqua vitae. Whatever the case, people clearly care a lot about whiskey.
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.