How Drunk Are You? Let Me Count the Ways!

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In researching words for drunkenness, I was appalled by how many I found. Clearly words to denote various states of alcoholic stupor are in frequent demand.

Here are a few of the terms, categorized according to degrees of drunkenness. Some are more literary than others.

mildly drunk

likkered up

very drunk

drunk as a lord
in his cups
feeling no pain
drunk as a skunk
three sheets to the wind
NOTE: This entry for sheet from Online Etymology Dictionary explains the origin of that last expression:

sheet -“rope that controls a sail,” O.E. sceatline “sheet-line,” from sceata “lower part of sail,” originally “piece of cloth,” from same root as sheet (1) (q.v.). The sense transferred to the rope by 1294. This is probably the notion in phrase three sheets to the wind “drunk and disorganized,” first recorded 1821, an image of a sloop-rigged sailboat whose three sheets have slipped through the blocks are lost to the wind, thus out of control.

Here’s how Shakespeare’s contemporary Thomas Nashe described the progressive stages of drunkenness:

The first is ape drunk, and he leaps and sings and hollers and danceth to the heavens. The second is lion drunk, and he flings the pots about the house, calls his hostess whore, breaks the glass windows with his dagger, and is apt to quarrel with any man that speaks to him. The third is swine drunk – heavy, lumpish, and sleepy, and cries for a little more drink and a few more clothes. The fourth is sheep drunk, wise in his own conceit when he cannot bring forth a right word. The fifth is maudlin drunk, when a fellow will weep for kindness in the midst of his ale, and kiss you, saying “By God, Captain, I love thee; go thy ways, thou dost not think so often of me as I do of thee. I would, if it pleased God, I did not love thee so well as I do”- and then he puts his finger in his eye, and cries.” —Quotes from the Works of Thomas Nashe

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22 thoughts on “How Drunk Are You? Let Me Count the Ways!”

  1. This is going to be one long comment thread.

    Off the top of my head: pissed, pished, blutered, rat-arsed, blazing, steaming, rolling.

    I’m sure there are plenty more.

  2. Trolleyed, of course, to decribe a particular kind of exuberant senslessness…

    Also legless, munted, twatted, bladdered (and the relative of bladdered, “breaking the seal”)

    Also classic Simpsons gag with the breathalyser, rated from least to most drunk:

    Boris Yeltsin

  3. In fiction I wouldn’t use any of those words. Showing how a drunk character acts is much more effective.

  4. …steamin’, gassed, pissed, maroculous (not sure about the spelling – never seen it written, only spoken), blootered, wellied, rubbered…

  5. That was hell of a post.
    Already feeling a lil’ ebriated. Suchafantasticjobdone..did i misssssout the spacessomewhere ohh i feel sloshed.

    ‘drunk as a lord’ sounds interesting and

    Reading Shakspeare is always a fun but without his thous and thees…

  6. Oh, and bladdered is a good one.
    For slightly drunk there’s also merry, which could also be used as a double entendre if you’re writing a tolkein spoof.

  7. mildly:

    [somewhat/slightly] the worse for wear
    (i’ve heard shit-arsed too)

    (but i’m sure there are more than that)

    …And in Brighton (Sussex, England), which is not the cleanest-living city in the world, when i was very small we used to say we’d seen a ‘wobbly man’.

    Do one on terms for stupid please! I love the range of variants on ‘one can short of a six-pack’. Always fun thinking up new ones.

  8. The Thomas Nashe quote sounds more like different versions of drunkenness than progressive stages. Some guys break things and get into fights, and others start hugging people, saying “I love you, man!” As a woman, I’d advise my friends to stay away from the first type – even if they seem different when sober!

  9. This is a fun listing to follow.

    potted, fluffy, anesthetized, blitzed, blotto, bombed, boiled, crocked, embalmed, knackered, gone, pickled, ripped

    have a snoot full
    praying to the porcelain goddess
    high as a kite

    Be interesting to see others . . .

  10. The saddest part: I learned in sociology class year ago that the more important a concept is to a society, the more words they have for it. For example, Native Alaskans have (if I recall correctly, it’s been awhile) 28 different words to describe “snow.” People in hot climates tend to use just one or two words.

    Sad that being drunk is such a rite of passage that so many cultures have so many descriptive words and terms!

  11. @4 spike1 – There’s always Nissed as a pewt, of course

    @2 Mr A – Legless! How could i forget legless!

    @14 Maeve – Thanx; that post was ‘before my time’. Great fun. I’d love to collect the more slangy terms, or simply more. Off the top of my head:

    not the brightest button in the box [or candle, torch, etc]
    ‘You great ‘nana!’
    wazzock, which seems to have taken over from wally

    et cetera, et cetera… ;0)

    Of course i should have listed those in the other comments. Eh up.

  12. Maeve, no, i grew up in Sussex, though i have picked up bits of accent and vocabulary from all over the country. And from different generations and classes.

    Now i have to work out which of what i said gave you that impression.

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