Cannabis slang: why is marijuana called “pot”?
There are more than 1,200 nicknames for cannabis, some more familiar than others. Ganga, weed, reefer and bud are some of the most-used and familiar, while alfalfa, Green Goddess and muggle —a 1920’s term for a pot smoker and not a non-magical person — are less well-known.
According to slang scholar Jonathon Green, drugs like cannabis are slang’s “best sellers” because slang consists of words and phrases, think codewords or inside jokes, intended to stand in for an actual thing or topic considered too taboo for conversations in polite society.
Of course, one of cannabis’ best-known nicknames is pot, but of all of the dozens and dozens of nicknames, the word “pot” standing in for cannabis seems a bit odd. Marijuana doesn’t remotely resemble the shape of a cooking pot, nor is it the color of one. So where did this odd-ish term come from?
Origins and history of cannabis slang terms
Green keeps an online database that lists slang grouped by what inspired the term, like “history,” “meaning” or “usage.” For example, the common cannabis nickname, “bud,” is grouped with other plant-derived marijuana nicknames like green, grass and herb. More slang names like chronic and dank are grouped under the “quality” category.
The word “marijuana” is itself a slang term categorized under “language.” However, despite its common use, advocates and others in the cannabis industry are working to familiarize consumers with the term cannabis instead of marijuana (which is the Spanish word for the plant) because of its racist history and affiliation with illicit markets.
The etymological argument on the slang term “pot” is far from settled, but one hypothesis of the nickname’s origin reaches back to the Mexican Revolution (1910—1924). The theory goes that Mexican immigrants in the crosshairs of revolution fled their country to make lives in the U.S., many of whom brought cannabis with them.
With that in mind, the term pot, which like marijuana is categorized “because of language,” may derive from the Spanish word potiguaya, meaning marijuana leaves.
From literature to pop culture
How the term “pot” came into general usage is not very clear, but a prevailing speculation is that the term was popularized by author Chester Himes, who wrote in the short story “The Way We Live Now,” in 1938, “She made him smoke pot and when he got jagged [high]. she put him on the street.”
But these are all just theories, and no one really knows with certainty how “pot” came to be. However, Green told Time Magazine that with any slang, as soon as “adults or authorities become wise to what a term means, then it’s time for a new one.” So, eventually, maybe the term will eventually go to pot.
Featured image by Gina Coleman/WeedmapsOne of cannabis' best-known nicknames is pot, but of all of the dozens and dozens of nicknames, the word “pot” standing in for cannabis seems a bit odd.
Why Is Marijuana Also Called Pot?
Weed. Mary Jane. Chronic. There are dozens of slang synonyms for marijuana. But one of the strangest is the word pot. How did the word for a common kitchen instrument become slang for marijuana?
The origin of pot has nothing to do with the culinary tool. The word came into use in America in the late 1930s. It is a shortening of the Spanish potiguaya or potaguaya that came from potación de guaya, a wine or brandy in which marijuana buds have been steeped. It literally means “the drink of grief.”
Like pot, the word marijuana refers to cannabis, the hemp plant Cannabis sativa (or Cannabis indica). The plant grows naturally in central Asia and other warm regions. Its uses vary from recreational to medicinal to religious.
Marijuana is the dried leaves and female flowers of the hemp plant. The word’s origin dates back to the late nineteenth century. It is an Americanism for the Mexican Spanish marihuana or mariguana, which is associated with the personal name María Juana. Mary Jane, by the way, is the English version of María Juana.Why Is Marijuana Also Called Pot? Weed. Mary Jane. Chronic. There are dozens of slang synonyms for marijuana. But one of the strangest is the word pot. How did the word for a common kitchen ]]>