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moon +‎ shine. Illegally distilled liquor is so named because its manufacture may be conducted without artificial light at night-time.


  • IPA(key): /ˈmuːnʃaɪn/
  • Hyphenation: moon‧shine


moonshine (countable and uncountable, plural moonshines)

  1. (literally) The light of the moon; moonlight.
    • 1597, William Shakespeare, The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, [Act I, scene iv]:
      [] her Waggon Spokes made of long Spinners legs: the Couer of the wings of Graſhoppers, her Traces of the ſmalleſt Spiders web, her coullers of the Moonſhines watry Beames []
    • 1666 September 2, Samuel Pepys, Mynors Bright, editor, The Diary of Samuel Pepys[2], London: George Bell & Sons, published 1893:
      [] the newes coming every moment of the growth of the fire; so as we were forced to begin to pack up our owne goods; and prepare for their removal; and did by moonshine (it being brave dry, and moonshine, and warm weather) carry much of my goods into the garden []
    • 1718, John Gay, “O ruddier than the Cherry”, from Act 2 of George Frideric Handel’s opera Acis and Galatea, page 47:
      [] O Nymph more bright than moon-ſhine night, like Kidlings blithe and merry []
    • 1798, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner in Lyrical Ballads, Part I, page 10:
      In mist or cloud on mast or shroud / It perch’d for vespers nine, / Whiles all the night thro’ fog smoke-white / Glimmer’d the white moon-shine.
    • 1908, Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables, Chapter 2,[3]
      [] it would be lovely to sleep in a wild cherry-tree all white with bloom in the moonshine, don’t you think? []
  2. (informal) High-proof alcohol (especially whiskey) that is often, but not always, produced illegally.
    They watered down the moonshine.
    • 1920, Peter B. Kyne, The Understanding Heart, Chapter IV
      “Wish I'd been more polite to that girl,” the sheriff remarked regretfully. [] I know she’d have give me another drink of that old moonshine she has.”
  3. (colloquial) Nonsense.
    He was talking moonshine.
    • 1945, George Orwell, Animal Farm, Chapter 5,[4]
      [] But sometimes you might make the wrong decisions, comrades, and then where should we be? Suppose you had decided to follow Snowball, with his moonshine of windmills—Snowball, who, as we now know, was no better than a criminal?”
    • 2012, David Attenborough, interview.[1]
      We forget what we have learned in the last 60 years. At university I once asked one of my lecturers why he was not talking to us about continental drift and I was told, sneeringly, that if I could I prove there was a force that could move continents, then he might think about it. The idea was moonshine, I was informed.
  4. (mathematics) A branch of pure mathematics relating the Monster group to an invariant of elliptic functions.
  5. (US) A spiced dish of eggs and fried onions.
  6. (obsolete) A month.
    • c. 1603–1606, William Shakespeare, “The Tragedie of King Lear”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies: Published According to the True Originall Copies (First Folio), London: Printed by Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358, [Act I, scene ii]:
      [] wherefore ſhould I / Stand in the plague of cuſtome, and permit / The curioſity of Nations to depriue me? / For that I am ſome twelue, or fourteene Moonſhines / Lag of a brother?


Derived terms[edit]



  1. ^ Robin McKie (28 October 2012), “David Attenborough: force of nature”, in The Observer[1], retrieved 29 October 2012



moonshine m (uncountable)

  1. (rare) moonshine (Appalachian home-made liquor)