Punch, referring to a beverage, indicates either a spiced concoction of hard liquor, wine, or beer and fruit juices (sometimes tea), or a refreshing, nonalcoholic mixture of fruit juices often with carbonated soda added; both are made in "party" size quantities. This punch is first served in early 17th-century English, and it is believed to have originated from Hindi and Urdu pā̃c, meaning "five"—in reference to the supposed original number of ingredients, which probably consisted of an alcohol (such as arrack), a sour (such as lemon or lime), a sugar or other sweetener, spices (or tea), and water. Inevitably, there were variations in recipes, as there are today.
The Hindi/Urdu word derives from Sanskrit pañca, which is an ingredient in the word pañcāmṛta, meaning, literally, "five nectars (of the gods)" and refers to a mixture of five ingredients—in particular, milk, curd, butter (or ghee), honey, and sugar (or molasses)—believed to have medicinal properties when combined. Another related Sanskrit word is pañcapātra, meaning "set of five glass bowls for libations."
Another origin history that has been proposed is this punch derives from puncheon, the name for a large cask. This etymology is based on association: the idea that people began calling the fruity alcoholic mixture stored in such casks by the name of the cask itself. Considering that the English East India Company was trading in parts of Asia and India during the 1600s, it makes for an interesting story—but a tall one.