Wine: Etymology

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

The modern English wine comes from Old English wīn, pronounced like modern ‘wean’: that indeed was how Chaucer pronounced his wyn, but Shakespeare’s pronunciation was closer to our own. The Old English form was in turn descended from the Latin vīnum, or as the Romans wrote it vinvm, by way of a loan-word represented in all Germanic languages (e.g. German Wein, Icelandic vín); a similar loan into Celtic has yielded Welsh gwin and Irish fíon. The explanation is that the Germans and celts, whose native beverage was beer, learnt to drink wine from the Romans; with it came the Latin word, borrowed while Latin v was still pronounced [w]. From Germanic territory drink and name passed in turn to the Slavs (e.g. Russian vinó) and Balts (Lithuanian vỹnas, Latvian vīns).