Where does the word "wine" come from?

Ask Dr Vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.

Dear Dr. Vinny,

Where does the word "wine" come from?

—Jose R., Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Dear Jose,

Let me put on my etymology hat. And pay attention, because there are plenty of crossword answers below.

"Wine" comes from the Old English word "win" (which is pronounced like "wean"). The Old English form was descended from the Latin "vinum," or as the Romans wrote it, "VINVM." "Vinum" in Latin seems to be related to the Latin word for vineyard, "vinea." But I've also read that "vinum" can mean "vine" in Latin too. If that's not far back enough for you, it appears that this Latin version was based on non-Indo-European languages such as Arabic, and their word "wain," or the Hebrew word "Yayin."

Now, it's not clear if the Latin to Old English was a direct line; it could also be a variation of a word that seems to be present in all Germanic languages. (Etymologists must argue about this all the time.) There's the German word "wein," Icelandic "vin" and so on. But the Germans and Celts were native beer drinkers, so they probably got the word from the Romans.

Many also believe that it comes from the Greek word "oinos," from the Greek god of wine, Dionysus.

Perhaps the most interesting tidbit from my research? The term "wine snob" was first recorded in 1951.

—Dr. Vinny

Ask Dr. Vinny

More In Dr. Vinny

What's the best source of info for when to drink a wine?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny says that when to drink a wine is, above all, a personal …

Mar 20, 2023

What does it mean if a still white wine like Chardonnay has bubbles?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains why some wines have a light carbonation or …

Mar 16, 2023

What's the best way to travel with wine and avoid "bottle shock"?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny shares advice for safely packing and securing wine for …

Mar 7, 2023

Is it OK for a dinner guest to help themselves to a host’s wine cellar?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny shares etiquette advice for dinner party hosts and guests.

Feb 27, 2023

When tasting multiple vintages of the same wine, is there a preferred order?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny offers strategies for wine tastings.

Feb 21, 2023

If a review says "drink by" a few years ago, is the wine bad now?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains how to interpret drinking windows and aging …

Feb 13, 2023