What is the Etymology of the Word “Hangover”?
Hangover (n.) The resounding feeling of death one feels upon awakening after a heavy night
Hangover (n.) The feeling one gets from drinking far too much. It is often associated with feelings of regret, short-term amnesia, lack of appetite, needing to vomit. Hangovers will typically leave you feeling like sh*t for approximately 24 hours (age dependant).
Oh, you know full well what a hangover is. I don’t need to explain this feeling to you. You could describe in detail the events that led you to your worst hangover. Or even tell the story of your first ever hangover?
I know mine was monumental; I had awoken covered in my own sick after drinking almost 1l of straight vodka. In my mind getting drunk was “blacking out” I had succeeded in blacking out.
This pathed the way for my lifelong drinking habits. The only thing I learned from that experience is how terrible hangovers are. I no longer needed a description to understand how horrible they are.
But where did the word come from? What is the etymological origin of the word “hangover”?
Around three thousand years ago, an old Indian textbook on Vedic medicine first described the alcohol hangover state. This “hungover” state was called “paramada”, characterised by thirst, pain in the head and joints, heaviness of the body, and a loss of taste. This is the first record of someone describing a hangover.
In recent times you may have seen pictures online claiming the word came from the industrial revolution. The image depicts a group of people sleeping hunched over ropes. The Claim is that drunks would stay in these rooms after a heavy night to get some sleep. For a cheap night, they could sleep hung over a rope. Thus creating the word “hangover”. This is not the case, and it seems this concept was born from the famous author George Orwell. He writes in his book Down and Out in Paris and London of 1933:
“At the Twopenny Hangover, the lodgers sit in a row on a bench; there is a rope in front of them, and they lean on this as though leaning over a fence. A man, humorously called the valet, cuts the rope at five in the morning. I have never been there myself, but Bozo had been there often. I asked him whether anyone could possibly sleep in such an attitude, and he said that it was more comfortable than it sounded — at any rate, better than bare floor.”
I agree that this sounds better than sleeping on the floor. However, this is not why you’re here. You are not here to discuss sleeping arrangements. No, you are here to find the origin of the word “hangover.”
After some research, I have found two reliable sources of information regarding the etymology of the word .
The following information is from Etymonline.com.
The website breaks down the meaning of the words; from hang (v.) + over, which describes the after-effects of excessive drinking. According to the website, this word was first used in 1902. Further stating it is the notion of something left from the night before. I.e., the deep feeling of death one feels once they sober up.
Another example from the Oxford English Dictionary states that the word has evolved from an earlier meaning; ‘a thing or person remaining or left over; an after-effect’. The after effect of a heavy night. I do not miss that horrible feeling. This alone is enough to keep me away from alcohol for life.
So it seems as though the term did not originate in the industrial era. It has nothing to do with ropes and drunkards. The usage of the word first began in 1902. Of course, different terms have been used to describe the feeling for centuries now. Yet in modern times we have many different ways to describe a hangover.