Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Irish & Scots Whiskey.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. whisky/whiskey

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A compound distilled spirit made in Ireland and Scotland; whisky.
  • n. A liquor compounded of brandy, or other strong spirit, raisins, cinnamon and other spices.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Distilled spirit made by the Celtic people of the British Islands, originally from barley. In this sense the term is still used in Scotland for malt whisky.

Etymologies

Scottish Gaelic uisge beatha and Irish Gaelic uisce beatha, water of life, whiskey (translation of Medieval Latin aqua vītae) : Old Irish uisce, water; see wed-1 in Indo-European roots + Old Irish bethad, genitive of bethu, life; see gwei- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Gaelic, from Irish and Scots Gaelic uisge beatha ‘water of life’. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Some authorities consider that the word is derived from the first part of the term usquebaugh; others suppose it to be derived from the name of a place, the Basque provinces, where some such compound was concocted in the fourteenth century.

    An Illustrated History of Ireland from AD 400 to 1800

  • Two hundred years later, the Catalan scholar Arnaud of Villanova dubbed the active principle of wine aqua vitae, the “water of life,” a term that lives on in Scandinavia (aquavit), in France (eau de vie), and in English: whisky is the anglicized version of the Gaelic for “water of life,” uisge beatha or usquebaugh, which is what Irish and Scots monks called their distilled barley beer.

    On Food and Cooking, The Science and Lore of the Kitchen

  • Which English word is a shortened form of "usquebaugh", which English borrowed from Gaelic, meaning "water of life"?

    The Friday Brain-teaser from Credo Reference

  • The dinner ended with cheese and oatcake, accompanied by a few small glasses of "usquebaugh," capital whisky, five and twenty years old -- just Harry's age.

    The Underground City

  • While the old Professor was revived with copious draughts of "usquebaugh," Jack Blunt saw the flash below him, on the darkened seas, of a red light above a white one.

    A Fascinating Traitor An Anglo-Indian Story

  • "usquebaugh," capital whisky, five and twenty years old -- just Harry's age.

    The Underground City, or, the Child of the Cavern

  • "usquebaugh" is probably an anglicized phonetic rendering of the Irish Gaelic phrase "uisce beatha" -- which translates to "water of life".

    MetaFilter

  • "I roll your word for liquor, usquebaugh, around my mouth", the speaker says reverently, before letting the whiskey drip down into a lustrous final couplet in which the last line is spun out beyond its natural length to extend the warmth of the moment: "You are distilled before you disappear forever/like the raised glass, the sunlight on one last golden measure."

    In the Flesh by Adam O'Riordan

  • The word “whisky” is a shortened form of the Gaelic word usquebaugh, or “water of life,” i.e., aqua vitae.

    Margin Walker | ATTACKERMAN

  • Old Keltie, the landlord, who had bestowed his name on a bridge in the neighbourhood of his quondam dwelling, received the carrier with his usual festive cordiality, and adjourned with him into the house, under pretence of important business, which, I believe, consisted in their emptying together a mutchkin stoup of usquebaugh.

    The Abbot

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