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The word “alcohol” derives from the Arabic term for “body-eating spirit”

The word “alcohol” derives from the Arabic term for “body-eating spirit”

By Madison Czopek
March 22, 2022

No, the word ‘alcohol’ didn’t come from the Arabic term for ‘body-eating spirit’

With alternative names like “devil’s water” and “poison,” alcohol has quite a reputation. 

According to some social media users, even the word “alcohol” itself has alarming origins.

“The word ‘alcohol’ is said to come from the Arabic term ‘Al-khul’ which means ‘BODY-EATING SPIRIT,'” reads one March 14 Facebook post. Al-khul is also “the origin of the term ‘ghoul,'” according to the post. 

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

We found no link between the origins of the word “alcohol” and body-eating spirits.

The English word “alcohol” has Arabic roots that trace back to the word “al-kuhl” or “al-kuhul,” which refer to the cosmetic kohl, according to newsreports and the Online Etymology Dictionary. 

“It derives from a reference to kohl, which was a kind of powdered eyeliner made via an extraction or distillation process from a natural mineral,” German news organization Deutsche Welle reported. 

So the Arabic term “al-khul” does not refer to anything nefarious or ghoulish.

Meanwhile, the Facebook post is also wrong in linking al-khul to the origin of “ghoul.” The Online Etymology Dictionary traced the origin of the word “ghoul” to the Arabic term “ghul,” which referred to “an evil spirit that robs graves and feeds on corpses.”

When debunking the claim in 2021, Africa Check reported that the word alcohol “has never been connected with a ‘body-eating spirit.'”

We rate this claim Pants on Fire!