John Barleycorn

noun

Definition of John Barleycorn

: alcoholic liquor personified

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms & Antonyms for John Barleycorn

Synonyms

Antonyms

  • nonintoxicant
Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Did You Know?

Inspiring bold John Barleycorn! / What dangers thou canst make us scorn! Robert Burns wasn't the first to use "John Barleycorn" as a personification of liquor when he penned those lines in his poem Tam O'Shanter in the late 1700s. The term had been part of English vernacular for more than 150 years before Burns's heyday, but the poet played a key role in popularizing it by carrying it into literature. "Barleycorn" undoubtedly became part of that euphemism for alcohol because barleycorns (that is, grains of barley) are a key ingredient in malt liquor. And "John" has long been used as a generic name or personifier in English.

Examples of John Barleycorn in a Sentence

she blamed John Barleycorn for the breakdown of their marriage

First Known Use of John Barleycorn

circa 1625, in the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about John Barleycorn

Time Traveler for John Barleycorn

Time Traveler

The first known use of John Barleycorn was circa 1625

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast about John Barleycorn

Statistics for John Barleycorn

Cite this Entry

“John Barleycorn.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/John%20Barleycorn. Accessed 16 Jun. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More from Merriam-Webster on John Barleycorn

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for John Barleycorn

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Name that Thing: Dog Breeds

How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
 AlphaBear 2

Spell words. Make bears.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!