Definition of alcohol in US English:



  • 1A colorless volatile flammable liquid that is produced by the natural fermentation of sugars and is the intoxicating constituent of wine, beer, spirits, and other drinks, and is also used as an industrial solvent and as fuel.

    Alternative names: ethanol, ethyl alcohol; chemical formula: C₂H₅OH

    • ‘an important measurement of any wine, is its concentration of the intoxicant ethyl alcohol, or ethanol.’
    • ‘Italy taxed synthetic ethyl alcohol more highly than ethyl alcohol obtained from fermentation.’
    • ‘However, the little alcohol in the martini was quickly taking me under its firm grip.’
    • ‘Punishment for brewing alcohol or possessing liquor is usually 80 lashes and a year in jail.’
    • ‘The test was positive, thereby indicating he was over the legal limit for alcohol in his blood.’
    • ‘It later records she has twice the legal limit of alcohol and will have to stay in the cells overnight.’
    • ‘Fermentation The conversion of sugar in grape juice into ethyl alcohol and carbon dioxide.’
    • ‘He breathalyses her which suggests she has twice the legal limit of alcohol in her bloodstream.’
    • ‘When she was breath-tested, she was found to have three times the legal limit of alcohol in her system.’
    • ‘The inquest heard that Mr Dean had been out with his friends to a public house, but had not drunk alcohol.’
    • ‘Sugar is taken and in the presence of an enzyme (a biological catalyst) ethyl alcohol and carbon dioxide are produced.’
    • ‘A roadside breath test found he had drunk more than twice the legal limit of alcohol.’
    • ‘The ale is five per cent alcohol by volume, and was available at all Arkell's pubs this week.’
    • ‘The alcohol found in alcoholic beverages is ethyl alcohol (ethanol).’
    • ‘He was subsequently found to have almost three and a half times the legal limit of alcohol in his blood.’
    • ‘Specimens were dehydrated in a graded series of ethyl alcohol and propylene oxide solutions and embedded in araldite.’
    • ‘For instance, addition of water to ethene creates ethyl alcohol.’
    • ‘The origins of the sordid controversy go back to the founding of the ethanol industry in Australia in the early 1990s. Ethanol, or ethyl alcohol, is a petrol additive derived from wheat, sugar and other vegetable matter.’
    • ‘Three hours later, a blood sample showed he was twice the legal limit for alcohol.’
    • ‘The member for Otago raised an interesting point relating to methyl alcohol and ethyl alcohol.’
    1. 1.1 Drink containing alcohol.
      ‘she hasn't drunk alcohol in five years’
      • ‘This is why men often seem to be able to drink more alcohol than women.’
      • ‘They also plan to prosecute if bar staff continue to serve alcohol to people who are drunk.’
      • ‘The policy of Irish Rail to serve alcohol on their trains has therefore always puzzled me.’
      • ‘Some bars served alcohol in a number of enterprising ways to try and fool the authorities.’
      • ‘I heard it was because of the elections, and they were not allowed to serve any kind of alcohol.’
      • ‘Shop owner Mr Kirby said he had earlier refused to serve the youth alcohol, and he had left without any trouble.’
      • ‘In those days Bettys had a licence and served alcohol and was a magnet for servicemen of many Allied nations.’
      • ‘This would allow alcohol to be served after normal pub hours only to customers who were having a table meal.’
      • ‘On the same night Gavin was also plied with alcohol, served up in a soft drinks can, Star claimed.’
      • ‘However, she admitted she had never seen Jackson serve the youngsters alcohol..’
      • ‘There's a town just before the Sahara and it's the last one that serves alcohol and it's our duty to stock up.’
      • ‘Premises which continue to serve alcohol without a renewed licence will be liable to prosecution.’
      • ‘She told him that she was not going to serve him any more alcohol, and asked if he wanted her to call a cab.’
      • ‘If he could have stopped at one or two drinks, alcohol would have served him well, but he couldn't do that.’
      • ‘He said that among the tenets of the Muslim faith were that one did not drink alcohol or serve it to guests.’
      • ‘If you are using alcohol, vodka is the most appropriate as it has no scent of its own.’
      • ‘When you get tired of drinking at home, why not go out and drink the same alcohol at twice the price down the pub?’
      • ‘The new bill would make it an offence to serve alcohol to people who are drunk.’
      • ‘More than 20 pubs in the district have been granted permission to open and serve alcohol for the game.’
      • ‘After all, they go to the pub to meet with friends and drink alcohol, which they are still free to do.’
      liquor, intoxicating liquor, alcoholic drink, strong drink, drink, spirits, intoxicants
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2Chemistry Any organic compound whose molecule contains one or more hydroxyl groups attached to a carbon atom.
      • ‘Like other acids, it reacts with most alcohols to form esters and decomposes when heated; it is also easily oxidized.’
      • ‘Aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbons, ketones, ethers, glycols and higher alcohols are not corrosive to magnesium and its alloys.’
      • ‘The volatile profile of fruits determined by gas chromatography and mass spectroscopy is complex, including many alcohols, aldehydes and esters.’
      • ‘Functional groups (such as alcohols, acids, and amines) are identified in organic chemistry.’
      • ‘Esters can be used to manufacture tertiary alcohols by using a Grignard reagent.’
      • ‘It is a mixture of esters of alcohols and acids, and some high molecular weight hydrocarbons.’
      • ‘They are either reduced by glutathione peroxidases to unreactive fatty acid alcohols or they react with metals to produce epoxides, aldehydes, etc.’
      • ‘Over time, however, it oxidizes and chemically degrades to form alcohols, ketones, aldehydes, acids and esters.’
      • ‘a class of chemical compounds midway between the alcohols and the organic acids in their state of oxidation.’
      • ‘Complete combustion of alcohols produces carbon dioxide and water.’
      • ‘In a similar way, both hydroxide ions and water molecules may act as nucleophiles by reacting with alkyl halides to produce alcohols.’
      • ‘The compounds generally referred to as feather waxes consist of fatty acids condensed with alcohols to form esters, such as triglycerides.’
      • ‘Many chemicals found in common perfumes and fragrances are designated as ‘hazardous’, including methylene chloride, toluene, methyl ethyl ketone, methyl isobutyl ketone, ethyl alcohol and benzyl chloride.’
      • ‘On the other hand, the permeability of the membrane for small uncharged solutes such as low molecular weight alcohols, amides, ketones etc., did not change.’
      • ‘Naturally derived materials include chemicals used fatty acids and alcohols used in detergents and other industrial applications.’
      • ‘Polyurethanes are created from dihydric alcohols and diisocyanate monomers.’
      • ‘It is about four times as strong as most real ales, with an alcohol by volume of 11 per cent.’
      • ‘Thermatoga microorganisms are known to play a role in the anaerobic oxidation of hydrocarbons to alcohols, organic acids and carbon dioxide.’
      • ‘Solvents permitted in the UK for extraction include acetone, hexane, ethyl acetate, ethyl alcohol, and carbon dioxide.’
      • ‘Many alkyl halides, alcohols, or alkenes can be reacted with benzene in the presence of certain catalysts to give an alkyl benzene.’


Mid 16th century: French (earlier form of alcool), or from medieval Latin, from Arabic al-kuḥl ‘the kohl’. In early use the term referred to powders, specifically kohl, and especially those obtained by sublimation; later ‘a distilled or rectified spirit’ (mid 17th century).