Definition of aqua vitae in US English:

aqua vitae


  • Strong alcoholic spirit, especially brandy.

    • ‘She appreciates a handsome face, a courteous gesture, and the occasional swig of aqua vitae.’
    • ‘These outlaws made aqua vitae available to a populace disgusted by its sobriety.’
    • ‘He takes a quick sip of aqua vitae, offered to him by one of the locals.’
    • ‘The use of more sophisticated equipment eventually enabled alchemists to produce aqua ardens, ‘burning water’, or an alcohol and water compound that would burn, and aqua vitae, ‘water of life’, or alcohol.’
    • ‘I took a sip of aqua vitae, let it char its way down to my belly.’
    • ‘In Latin it is aqua vitae, in Gaelic it is uisge beatha and, to you and me, it's whisky.’
    • ‘However, the first written record appears in the Exchequer Rolls of 1494, noting that a certain Friar Cor was in possession of eight bolls of malt to produce aqua vitae (our ‘water of life’).’
    • ‘The aqua vitae created by alchemists remained a scientific curiosity, a substance not easily assimilated into regular diet.’
    • ‘This book even shows the origins of aqua vitae, akvavit and usquebaugh, all very important substances today!’


Late Middle English: from Latin, literally ‘water of life’; compare with aquavit, eau-de-vie, usquebaugh, and whiskey.