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A Nip against the Cold (1869) by Erskine Nicol, from a private collection

From Irish poitín (little pot; poteen), from pota (pot)[1] (from Middle English potte, ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *budn- (type of vessel)) + -ín (suffix forming diminutives).


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Particularly: "Ireland"


poteen (countable and uncountable, plural poteens)

  1. (Ireland, countable, uncountable) Illegally produced Irish whiskey; moonshine. [from early 19th c.]
    • 1835 September 13, J. L. L., “The Poteen Still. A Tale Founded on Fact.”, in Philip Dixon Hardy, editor, The Dublin Penny Journal, volume III, number 115, Dublin: Printed and published by P. D. Hardy, 3, Cecilia Street, OCLC 321009396, page 85, column 1:
      The Irish peasantry practice the distillation of that illicit spirituous liquor, so well known by the name of poteen whiskey, with a most unaccountable infatuation.
    • 1843 May 6, “a New Orleans Irishman”, “An Irish Race Course”, in Brother Jonathan, volume V, number 1, New York, N.Y.: Wilson & Company, publishers; office 162 Nassau Street, OCLC 1774847, page 26, column 1:
      [A] detachment, consisting of a subaltern’s party, was on its road to Head Quarters, from a still hunting in the mountains, or hostile excursion after contrabandists, or distillers of that delicious fluid, Potheen whiskey, [] It is related that when he [George IV of the United Kingdom] had drained the first glass that was presented to him, he declared that he could now understand why the Irish peasantry were willing to risk life and liberty in its illegal production—it was the real elixir vitæ—the only stuff fit to fuddle a prince with—royal in its flavor, royal in its odor, and super-royal in its effects! That Poteen!
    • 20th century, Stuart Howard-Jones (1904–1974), “Hibernia”, in Kingsley Amis, comp., The New Oxford Book of English Light Verse, New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press, 1978, →ISBN, page 243:
      Last night he had put down too much Potheen / (A vulgar blend of Methyl and Benzene) / That, at some Wake, he might the better keen. / (Keen—meaning ‘brisk’? Nay, here the Language warps: / ’Tis singing bawdy Ballads to a Corpse.)
    • 1907, J[ohn] M[illington] Synge, “Part IV”, in The Aran Islands, Dublin: Maunsel & Co., Ltd; London: Elkin Mathews, OCLC 605171657, page 152:
      “Make haste now and go up and tell your mother to hide the poteen”—his mother used to sell poteen—“for I’m after seeing the biggest party of peelers and yeomanry passing by on the rocks was ever seen on the island.”
    • 2002, Sarah Hall, Haweswater, London: Faber and Faber, →ISBN; paperback edition, London: Faber and Faber, 2003, →ISBN, page 240:
      Past the split tree three-quarters of the way in, where a man has tucked a small bottle of Rot under the bark for his workmate to collect as he passes. Such narcotics and poteens are illegal in the encampment, and cannot be risked passing within the huts.
    • 2002, Joseph O'Connor, “The Ballad-maker”, in Star of the Sea: Farewell to Old Ireland, London: Secker & Warburg, →ISBN; Star of the Sea (Harvest Book), 1st U.S. edition, Orlando, Fla.: Harcourt, 2003, →ISBN, page 88:
      He began to rove the country at night, trudging out to shebeens or crossroads dances, to the ceilidhs and poteen sessions that sometimes followed Fair Days in the small towns of Connemara.
  2. (Ireland, countable, by extension) An unlicensed drinking establishment selling illegally produced Irish whiskey.
    • 1836, “Supplement to Appendix (E.): Answers to Questions Circulated by the Commissioners Relative to the Condition of Agricultural Labourers in Ireland”, in Poor Inquiry (Ireland). Appendix (E.) Containing Baronial Examinations Relative to Food, Cottages and Cabins, Clothing and Furniture, Pawnbroking and Savings’ Banks, Drinking; and Supplement, Containing Answers to Questions 13 to 22 Circulated by the Commissioners. Presented to Both Houses of Parliament by Command of His Majesty (Reports from Commissioners: Fifteen Volumes; 11 (Poor Laws (Ireland): Appendix (E.): Session 4 February – 20 August 1836)), volume XXXII, London: Printed by W[illiam] Clowes and Sons, Stamford Street, for His Majesty’s Stationery Office, OCLC 885426275, ULSTER—County Cavan—Baronies Castleraghan, Loughtee Upper [table], page 294:
      Kildrumferton … Pop. 9,687 [] There are nine licensed public houses; poteens many more. Illicit distillation prevails to a very great extent, the district being rarely visited by the revenue police, not indeed for years past; the presence of the excise officer in a neighbouring town is the only check.
    • [1875], M[ary] A[nna] Paull, “The Tenpenny Nail”, in St. Mungo’s Curse; or, The Crippled Singer of the Saltmarket, Manchester: Tubbs and Brook, 11, Market Street; London: Simpkin, Marshall & Co.; F. Pitman, OCLC 316475885, page 11:
      The whisky shops and poteens of Scotland and Ireland, the gin-palaces and beer-shops of England, are an incubus that is dwarfing the good in every section of the community, and forcing out the evil.

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Further reading[edit]




poteen m (genitive singular [please provide], plural [please provide])

  1. poteen


Manx mutation
Radical Lenition Eclipsis
poteen photeen boteen
Note: Some of these forms may be hypothetical. Not every
possible mutated form of every word actually occurs.




  1. Third-person plural (ellos, ellas, also used with ustedes?) present subjunctive form of potear.
  2. Second-person plural (ustedes) imperative form of potear.