- October 12, 2014
- Posted by: Madrigal Admin
- Category: Word of the Week Blog
Where did beer come from?
The Ancient Greeks and Romans, who provided the starter words for many European languages, were wine drinkers. Beer was (as probably some would think now) a drink of the barbarian peoples (although the Egyptians and Persians did also enjoy a pint). It was first brewed in the European area by the Sumerians in Mesopotamia (now part of Iraq) about 5000 years ago but evidence suggests it might have been brewed up to 12,000 years ago.
Although not a common drink in Ancient Greek and Roman bars the ancient barflies did have some words for beer. The Greeks called the barbarian drink brytos, which meant brew and they called the Egyptian version zythos (the Romans called it zythum), from zyme to leaven.
So fortunately the barbarians were left alone to develop their own words for beer. Drinkers across Europe had four word variations for their drink of choice. Ale was used in the northern inns; beer in the western pubs; cerveza in the southern tapas bars; and pivo in the eastern tavernas.
Beer is a drink
The words, beer, bier, bière, birra, bjor, etc, probably derive from the Latin word bibere to drink, or biber, a drink. It may also originate from the early German word, beuwoz for barley. Word variations have widespread use across Western Europe and the rest of the world. It is not related to the word brew.
Ale is a bitter drink
Ale (with øl, olut, in other languages) comes from Old English ealu. It derives probably from a really early word meaning bitter, and was used for a drink that had connotations of sorcery, magic, possession, and intoxication.
Cerveza is a thick drink
Cerveza, cerveja, sirbisi, sör, cwrw, are from Latin cervesia for beer, perhaps from Latin cremor for a thick broth. It is the source of the word in Spanish, Portuguese and Catalan.
Pivo is a barley drink
Pivo, the word used in most Slavonic languages derives from Old Church Slavonic for a drink (or perhaps from the old word piwwo for barley similar to beuwoz).
Lager is for keeping
Lager (just in case you want to know) is short for lager beer which came from German Lagerbier, which was a beer brewed for keeping some months before being drunk. It originated from lager meaning storehouse.
What is the difference between ale and beer?
Ale, the native drink of Old England was an unhopped, fermented, malt liquor. In the fifteenth century beer was introduced from Northern Europe; it was a hopped, fermented, malt liquor. Townsfolk took to it while the country-folk persisted with ale for a few more centuries. Eventually all ale and beer was hopped. They became the same but the words are not quite synonymous. Ale still has a connotation of authenticity and rusticity.
But whatever you choose to call it, cheers to its inventor!