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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.
    • c. 1594, William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Act I, Scene 4,[2]
      Her wagon-spokes made of long spiders’ legs, / The cover of the wings of grasshoppers, / The traces of the smallest spider’s web, / The collars of the moonshine’s watery beams,
    • 1666, Samuel Pepys, Diary, 2 September, 1666,[3]
      [] 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, Song from Act 2 of George Frideric Handel’s opera Acis and Galatea,[4]
      O ruddier than the cherry! / O sweeter than the berry! / O nymph more bright / Than moonshine night, / Like kidlings blithe and merry!
    • 1798, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner in Lyrical Ballads, Part I,[5]
      In mist or cloud, on mast or shroud, / It perch’d for vespers nine; / Whiles all the night, through fog-smoke white, / Glimmer’d the white moonshine.
    • 1908, Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables, Chapter 2,[6]
      [] 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 ain't had a bite to eat since four o'clock this morning, and I'm hungry as a wolverine. … 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,[7]
      [] 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. 1605, William Shakespeare, King Lear, Act I, Scene 2,[8]
      Wherefore should I / Stand in the plague of custom and permit / The curiosity of nations to deprive me, / For that I am some twelve or fourteen moonshines / Lag of a brother?


Derived terms[edit]



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



moonshine m (uncountable)

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