Home Arts and Leisure How To Call Someone a Drunk in Colonial Times – From The Drinkers Dictionary
drinkers dictionary

How To Call Someone a Drunk in Colonial Times – From The Drinkers Dictionary

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In 1737, at the age of 31, Boston-born Benjamin Franklin decided to point out the many phrases people used to describe drunkenness. Though Franklin did drink alcohol, he was a moderate drinker. He published his Drinkers Dictionary first in the Pennsylvania Gazette in 1737, and it was reprinted many times. The original had 225 entries. This version, from his memoirs, has grown to 268.

drinkers dictionary

Peasants brawling in a tavern interior by Abraham Diepraam

Nothing is more like a fool than a drunken man. Poor Richard.

It is an old remark, that vice always endeavors to assume the appearance of virtue; thus covetousness calls itself prudence, prodigality would be thought generous, and so of others. This perhaps arises hence that mankind naturally and universally approve virtue in their hearts, and detest vice. Therefore, whenever through temptations they fall into vicious practices, they would if possible conceal it from themselves, as well as from others, under some name which does not belong to it.

But drunkenness is a very unfortunate vice; in this respect it bears no kind of similitude with any sort of virtue, from which it might possibly borrow a name; and is therefore reduced to the wretched necessity of being expressed by round about phrases, and of perpetually varying those phrases as often as they come to be well understood plainly to signify that a man is drunk.

Though everyone may possibly recollect a dozen at least of these expressions, used on such occasions, yet I think no one who has not much frequented taverns could imagine the number of them to be so great as it really is. It may therefore surprise as well as divert the sober reader, to have a sight of a new piece lately communicated to me, entitled,

The Drinkers Dictionary.


He’s addled.

He’s in his airs.

He’s affected.

He’s casting up his accounts.



He’s biggy.

He’s bewitched.

He’s black and black.

He’s bowzed.

He’s boozy.

He’s been at Barbadoes.

He’s been watering the brook.

He’s drunk as a wheelbarrow,

He’s Bothered

He’s burdock’d.

He’s bosky.

He’s busky.

He’s buzzy.

He has sold a march in the brewer.

His head is full of bees.

He has been in the bibing plot.

He has drunk more than he has bled.

He’s bungy.

He has been playing beggar-my-neighbour.

He’s drunk as a beggar.

He sees the beams.

He has kissed black Betty.

He’s had a thump over the head with Samson’s jaw-bone.

He has been at war with his brains.

He’s bridgy.



He has been catching the cat.

He’s cogniaid.

He’s capable.

He’s cramped.

He’s cherubimical.

He’s cherry merry.

He’s wamble croft.

He’s crack’d.

He’s half way to Concord.

He’s canonized.

He has taken a chirping glass.

He’s got corns in his head.

He’s got a cup too much.

He’s coguay.

He’s cupsy.

He has heated his copper.

He’s in crocus.

He’s catch’d.

He cuts capers.

He has been in the cellar

He has been in the sun.

He’s in his cups.

He’s above the clouds.

He’s non compos.

He’s cock’d.

He’s curved.

He’s cut.

He’s chippered.

He’s chickenny

He has loaded his cart.

He’s been too free with the creature.

Sir Richard has taken off his considering Cap

He’s chopfallen.

He’s candid.



He ‘s disguised.

He’s got a dish.

He has killed a dog.

He has taken his drops.

‘Tis a dark day with him.

He’s a dead man.

He has dipped his bill.

He sees double,

He’s disfigured.

He has seen the devil



He’s Prince Eugene.

He’s enter’d.

He has butted both Eyes.

He is cock-eyed.

He has got the Pole Evil.

He has got a brass Eye.

He has made an Example.

He has ate a toad & a half for breakfast.

He’s in his Element.



He’s Fishey.

He’s fox’d.

He’s fuddled.

He’s soon fuddled

He’s fozen.

He’s well Well in front.

He owes no man a farthing.

He fears no Man.

He’s crump footed.

He’s been to France.

He’s flush’d.

He has frozen his mouth.

He has been to a funeral.

His Flag is out.

He’s fuzzled

He has spoken with his friend.

He has been at an Indian feast.



He’s glad.

He’s Grabable.

He’s great-headed.

He’s glazed.

He’s generous.

He has boozed the gage.

He’s as dizzy as a goose.

He has been before George.

He has got the gout.

He has got a Kick in the Guts.

He has been at Geneva.

He is globular.

He’s got the glanders.

He’s on the go

He’s a gone man

He’s been to see Robin Goodfellow



He’s half and half

He’s half seas over,

He’s hardy.

He’s top Heavy.

He has got by the head.

He makes headway

He’s hiddey.

He has got on his little hat.

He’s hammerish.

He’s loose in the Hilt.

He knows not the way Home.

He’s got the hornson

He’s haunted with Evil Spirits.

He has taken Hippocrates’ grand Elixir.



He’s intoxicated.



He’s jolly.

He’s jagged.

He’s jambled.

He’s jocular.

He ‘s juicy.

He’s going to Jericho.

He’s an indirect man.

He’s going to Jamaica.

He’s going to Jerusalem.



He’s a king.

He clips the king’s English.

He has seen the French king.

The king is his cousin.

He has got kibed heels.

He has got knapt.

His kettle’s hot.

He’ll be soon keel upward.



He’s in liquor.

He’s lordly.

He’s light.

He’s lappy.

He’s limber.

He’s lopsided.

He makes indentures with his legs.

He’s limber.

He’s well to live.



He sees two moons.

He’s merry.

He’s middling

He’s muddled.

He’s moon-eyed.

He’s maudlin.

He’s mountainous.

He’s muddy.

He’s mellow.

He’s seen a flock of moons.

He’s raised his monuments.



He has eaten cocao nuts.

He’s nimtopsical.

He’s non compos.

He has got the night mare.

He has been nonsuited.

He is super nonsensical.

He’s in a state of nature.

He’s nonplus’d.



He’s oiled.

He has ate opium.

He has smelt an onion.

He is an oxycrocum.

He is overset.

He is overcome.

He is out of sorts.

He is on the paymaster’s books.



He drank his last halfpenny

He’s as good conditioned as a puppy.

He’s pigeon eyed.

He’s pungy.

He’s priddy.

He’s pushing on.

He has salt in his headban.

He has been among the Philistines.

He’s in prosperity.

He’s friends with Philip.

He’s contending with Pharaoh.

He has painted his nose.

He has wasted his punch.

He has learned politeness.

He has eat the pudding-bag.

He has eat too much pumpkin.

He’s full of piety.



He’s rocky.

He’s raddled.

He’s rich.

He’s religious.

He’s ragged.

He’s raised.

He has lost his rudder.

He has been too far with Sir Richard.

He’s like a rat in trouble.



He’s stitch’d.

He’s seafaring.

He’s in the suds.

He’s strong.

He’s been in the sun.

He’s as drunk as David’s sow.

He’s swampt.

His skin is full.

He’s steady.

He’s stiff.

He has burnt his shoulder.

He has got out his top-gallant sails.

He has seen the dog-star.

He’s stiff as a ringbolt.

He’s half seas over.

The shoe pinches him.

He is staggerish.

It is star light with him.

He carries too much sail.

He’ll soon out studding sails.

He’s stewed.

He’s stubbed.

He’s soaked.

He’s soft.

He has made too free with Sir John Strawberry

He’s right before the wind with all his sails out.

He has pawned his senses.

He plays parrot

He has made shift of his shirt

He shines like a blanket

He has been paying for a sign



He’s Top’d.


He’s tanned.

He’s tipsicum grave.

He’s double Tongued.

He’s topsy-Turvey.

He’s tipsy.

He’s swallowed a tavern token.

He’s Thaw’d.

He’s transported.

He’s Trammelled.



He makes Virginia fence.

He’s pot valiant.

He has got the Indian vapours.

He is in love with varany.



The malt is above the water.

He’s Wise.

He’s a wet soul.

He has been to the salt water.

He has been in search of eye water.

He’s in the way to be weaned.

He’s out of the way.

He’s water soaked.

He’s wise or otherwise.

He can walk the line.

The wind is west with him.

He carries his wagon.

The phrases in this dictionary are not (like most of our terms of art) borrowed from foreign languages, neither are they collected from the writings of the learned in our own, but gathered wholly from the modern tavern-Conversation of tiplers. I do not doubt but that there are many more in use; and I was even tempted to add a new one myself under the Letter B, to wit, Brutified. But upon consideration, I feared being guilty of injustice to the brute creation, if I represented drunkenness as a beastly vice, since, ’tis well-known, that the brutes are in general a very sober sort of people.

1 comment

Blair Colquhoun September 15, 2017 - 11:04 am

I didn’t see “He’s drunk as a skunk” and “He’s three sheets to the wind” on there.

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