FACT CHECK: Is The Word ‘Alcohol’ Derived From An Arabic Word Meaning ‘Body-Eating Spirit’?

Hannah Hudnall | Fact Check Reporter

A post shared on Facebook claims the word “alcohol” derived from the Arabic word “al-kuhl,” meaning “body-eating spirit.”

Verdict: Misleading

While the word “alcohol” is derived from the Arabic word “al-kuhl,” the word does not mean “body-eating spirits.”

Fact Check:

The Facebook post claims that the word “alcohol” originates from the Arabic term “al-kuhl,” which it alleges means “body-eating spirit.” The post also claims the word “kuhl” stems from the word “ghoul,” which means “an evil demon” that is used to corrupt and feed off human bodies, “specifically children and stolen corpses,” according to the post.

While “alcohol” is derived from the Arabic word, “al-kuhl, ” according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, there is no evidence the phrase has any relation to “body-eating spirits” The word has roots in both Medieval Latin and Arabic, the dictionary lists. “Al-” is listed as the definite article for the word “the,” while “kohl” is described as “the fine metallic powder used to darken the eyelids,” according to the dictionary. There is notably no mention of any “body-eating” spirits.

The word “ghoul” has no correlation to the word “kuhl” or “alcohol,” though it does derive from the Arabic word “ghul,” which means “demon,” according to the dictionary. (RELATED: Does Astrazeneca Mean ‘Weapon That Kills’?)

In an article published by German outlet Deutsche Welle titled “From alcohol to sugar: Words with Arabic roots,” German philologist Andreas Unger explains the word “kuhl” as “a kind of powdered eyeliner made via an extraction or distillation process” from natural minerals. The article also fails to mention any connection to “body-eating spirits” or demons.

Taoufik Ben-Amor, a senior lecturer in Arabic Studies at Columbia University, told Check Your Fact via email that he claim shared on Facebook is incorrect. “The root for Al-KuHul is K-H-L (with a soft H) الكحول, whereas Ghoul is from GH-W-L غول,” he explained.

Hannah Hudnall

Fact Check Reporter


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