Words Worth Knowing: Egg-nog

Christmas is coming, and with it the many drinks and foods we love about these holidays. That’s why it’s the perfect time to talk a little about egg-nog. This is one of our favorite drinks to wait for Santa and celebrate New Year’s Eve.

Eggnog may or may not be a high-alcoholic beverage, depending on how it is prepared. However, its appealing sweet taste has confused more than one and sent them to sleep earlier than planned. In the same way the etymological history of eggnog is just as confusing.  Few seem to be completely sure what “nog” means.  After a couple of definitions I’ll tell you the various hypotheses of this name.

Dictionary Definition


Eggnog: noun. a drink made from milk, sugar, and eggs, often mixed with alcohol such as brandy or rum. (Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary).

Eggnog: noun. a thick drink made of beaten eggs, milk, sugar, and nutmeg, often containing whiskey, rum, wine, etc.. (Webster’s New World College Dictionary).

The most common time that the word eggnog comes up is when the holidays are approaching. Thus, we use this word for one or maximum two months a year. The Collins dictionary says it is a Rarely used Word situated in the lower 50% of commonly used words.

Here are some examples so you know how to talk about egg-nog when you meet your friends this Christmas.


− “Cases are no longer mainly tied to foods made with raw eggs (like homemade mayonnaise and eggnog) or under-cooked meat and poultry”.
From The New York Times Article: How to Minimize the Risk of Food Poisoning. 2018
− “Vodka producer Three Olives has now announced a new eggnog flavored vodka”.
From NH1 website Article: This New Eggnog Vodka Will Knock Your Holiday Socks Off. 2018
− “As the name suggests, Christmas eggnog bread is made with the top flavors of the winter season, including cinnamon, nutmeg, rum and, of course, eggnog”.
From Simplemost website Article: If You Haven’t Tried Christmas Eggnog Bread, You’re Seriously Missing Out. 2018

Nog, noggin or grog


The predecessor of the eggnog was the “posset”.  This was an early medieval Britain drink made with hot milk, curdled with wine or ale and flavored with spices. The monks of the 13th century began adding eggs to this powerful drink and created the eggnog. But where does the name come from?

Eggnog is the combination of two English words: Egg + nog, the latter being a very old word that is already in disuse and whose definition has confronted historians.

One of the hypotheses is that the name was originally the combination of egg + grog, “egg-n-grog”.  This was a spirit that was frequently used in the Middle Ages to mix with other ingredients. Remember when we talked about grog? If you want to refresh your memory you can give a look to the Groggy article.

So, it is believed that with the passing of the years and by the influence of drunken tangled tongues this name “egg-n-grog” was compacted to “eggnog”.

The second hypothesis is that Nog refers to Norfolk Nog.  This was a strong and heady ale popular in the United Kingdom during the Middle Ages, especially in East Anglia.  Norfolk Nog may also have been used to prepare the posset with egg which would later become the Eggnug.

The third and final hypothesis is that the word nog is an abbreviation of the word nogging. These were the ancient carved wooden mugs that were often used in multiple taverns in the United Kingdom at the end of the 17th century, and in which this drink was probably served.

The truth is that all hypotheses are probable.  However, I’m sure that the person who coined the name was simply a medieval drunk who wasn’t taking it half as seriously as we are!

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