Prohibition Dictionary and Glossary of Prohibition Words

This Prohibition dictionary and glossary is a guide to terms and groups related to National Prohibition (1920-1933) in the U.S. It does not list people.


Alcohol refers to ethyl alcohol or ethanol, the type found in alcohol beverages. It is also commonly used to refer to alcohol   beverage in general. The word alcohol is from the Arabic “al kohl,” meaning the essence. This is an important word in this Prohibition dictionary.

American Council on Alcohol Problems
The American Council on Alcohol Problems is a temperance group that promotes neo-prohibitionism. It is the current name of the Anti-Saloon League.
American Issue Publishing Company
Prohibition Dictionary
Ernest Cherrington

The American Issue Publishing Company printed an enormous volume of temperance materials. It was for the Anti-Saloon League and other temperance groups. They promoting prohibition. The Company was directed by Ernest H. Cherrington.

American Temperance Society
The American Temperance Society was formed in 1826. It marked the beginning of the national temperance movement in the US.
American Temperance Union
A national temperance union was formed in 1826 as the American Temperance Union. Shortly thereafter, a second national temperance group was formed. Later the two groups merged in 1836 to form the American Temperance Union.
Anti-Prohibition Congress
The Anti-Prohibition Congress held annual meetings in various cities throughout Europe during the 1920s. During that time National Prohibition existed in the US. Prohibitionists from the U.S. had been trying to bring about world-wide prohibition. That was seen by many people in Europe as a threat to their way of life.
Anti-Saloon League
American Council on Alcohol ProblemsThe Anti-Saloon League was a major organization involved in bringing about National Prohibition in the US. It is now, combined with the American Temperance League, known as the American Council on Alcohol Problems. It attempts
to influence public policy.6      
Association Against the Prohibition Amendment
The Association Against the Prohibition Amendment was formed in 1918. It was an unsuccessful effort to prevent the Eighteenth Amendment. That established National Prohibition. Yet its grew greatly in membership during the later years Prohibition. That’s when its unintended effects became clear.
Bathtub gin
Bathtub gin got its name from the fact that alcohol, glycerine and juniper juice was mixed in bottles or jugs too tall to be filled with water from a sink tap so they were commonly filled under a bathtub tap.
Beer is a fermented beverage made from barley malt or other cereal grains. From the Latin dibere (to drink).
Blind pig
fake ID cardsBlind pig is another name for a speakeasy (see speakeasy). Perhaps called a blind pig because the establishment turned a “blind eye” to Prohibition or because consuming the often contaminated illegal alcohol beverages sold there sometimes caused blindness
Blind tiger
The same as blind pig or speakeasy.
Board of Temperance Strategy
The Board of Temperance Strategy was established 1930 by the Anti-Saloon League as a “last ditch” effort to coordinate resistance to the growing public demand for the repeal of National Prohibition      
Bootleg refers to illegally produced alcoholic beverages.
A bootlegger is a person who illegally makes, transports or sells alcoholic beverages. Bootlegging still exists because taxes more than double the average retail price of a bottle of vodka, gin, whiskey or other distilled spirit beverage.
women bootleggers
Women Bootleggers

Some bootleggers were women. Discover the advantages they had as bootleggers!

Bootlegging refers to illegally producing, transporting or selling alcoholic beverages.
Bourbon is a beverage that is distilled from a mash of at least 51% corn and aged in new charred oak barrels. It was first produced by Reverend Elijah Craig in Bourbon County, Kentucky. See Beverages: Ales to Zombies.
Brand name
Brand name (branded name) on whiskey keg.

Brand name means proprietary name. The term originated from the practice among American distillers of branding (or burning into the wood) their names and emblems on their kegs before shipment.

Bricks of wine
Dried compressed blocks or “bricks” of wine were widely sold during Prohibition because it was not illegal to produce wine at home for personal consumption. The bricks were reconstituted with water and used to make wine.
Bureau of Prohibition
The Bureau of Prohibition was a federal agency established to enforce National Prohibition. It was characterized by rampant corruption.
Clip joint
A place of entertainment in which customers are tricked into paying highly inflated prices for inferior goods or services, or even none at all. Then they’re coerced into paying.
Committee of Fifty
In 1893, a group of leading scientists and educators formed the prestigious Committee of Fifty for the Investigation of the Liquor Problem. It found the WCTU’s Scientific Temperance Instructional to be neither scientific nor instructional but propagandistic.
Control of consumption
Control of consumption refers to an approach to reducing alcohol problems that attempts to do so by reducing the consumption of alcohol. It is more accurately called the reduction of consumption approach.
Its ultimate goal is to stigmatize alcohol and those who drink it. Currently being promoted by many governments and temperance groups. Also called public health model, neo-prohibitionism, and the new temperance movement. See Neo-Prohibitionism and Neo-ProhibitionistsSurprisingly, almost one in five adults in the U.S. currently supports making it illegal for anyone to drink alcohol.
Corn whiskey
Corn whiskey is distilled from a mash of at least 80% corn.
Crusaders (The)
The Crusaders was an influential repeal organization founded in 1929 that chose to work at the local level across the country.
Denatured alcohol
Ethyl alcohol that is made undrinkable by the addition of nauseating or poisonous substances.
Distilled spirits

prohibition dictionary
Standard Drinks
Refers to ethanol that is produced by heating fermented products, such as wine or mash. Then condensing the resulting vapors. Sometimes referred to as liquor or hard liquor. The term hard liquor is misleading. It implies that distilled spirits are more intoxicating than beer or dinner wine. But standard drinks all have six-tenths of an ounce.
A dry was person who supported prohibition and a dry area is one in which the purchase of alcoholic beverage is legally prohibited.

There are hundreds of dry counties across the United States. About 18,000,000 people live in the 10% of the area of the US that is dry.

Dry agents
Izzy Einstein and Moe Smith
Izzy Einstein and Moe Smith in Disguise

Law enforcement agents of the Bureau of Prohibition. Two of the most famous were Izzy Einstein and Moe Smith. Some women were also Dry Agents. They are important in this Prohibition dictionary.

Corruption was a continuing problem among Prohibition agents. One of the most infamous was William Harvey Thompson (“Kinky” Thompson).
Eighteenth Amendment
The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution banned the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcoholic beverages in the United States and its possessions beginning in January of 1920. Contrary to common belief, it did not prohibit the purchase or consumption of alcohol. It was repealed by the 21st Amendment in 1933. This essential to a Prohibition dictionary.
The process by which yeast converts sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide.
Distilled spirits flavored with juniper berries. It may also include additional flavorings. Although gins may be aged, producers of those sold in the US are prohibited from reporting that they have been aged or, if so, for how long they have been aged.
The unpleasant consequence of over-consuming alcohol. It is characterized by headache, fatigue and often nausea. It can be prevented by not drinking to excess. Beware of the hangover remedies flooding the market.
Jake-foot was a paralysis of the legs and feet caused by tainted bootleg alcohol.
John Barleycorn
John Barleycorn is a personification of alcoholic beverages.
Kentucky whiskey
A blend of whiskeys distilled in Kentucky.
Prohibition and Repeal Experiences
KKK supported Prohibition

Ku Klux Klan (KKK)

The KKK strongly supported Prohibition and its strict enforcement.
Labor’s National Committee for the Modification of the Volstead Act
The American Federation of Labor’s National Committee for the Modification of the Volstead Act was created in January of 1931. The Volstead Act was the law that provided for the implementation of the Eighteenth Amendment that established National Prohibition.
Southern boys who signed Lincoln-Lee Legion abstinence pledges.
Lincoln-Lee Legion
The Lincoln-Lee Legion was established by Anti-Saloon League-founder Howard Hyde Russell in 1903 to promote the signing of abstinence pledges by children.
social history of alcoholLincolns
Northern boys who signed Lincoln-Lee Legion abstinence pledges. Ironically, Abraham Lincoln held a liquor license and operated several taverns.10
Liquor historically referred to any alcohol beverage but today it generally refers only to distilled spirits.
Mash is ground malt (germinated barley) mixed with water.
Molly Pitcher Club
The Molly Pitcher Club was founded in 1922 by M. Louise Gross. Named after a perhaps mythical Revolutionary heroine, the club was libertarian in orientation and attempted to prevent federal interference with personal behaviors that were not criminal. M. Louise Gross and her members did not believe that consuming alcoholic beverages should be criminalized.
Illegally produced beverage alcohol. It is frequently tainted.
National Prohibition Act

Andrew Volstead
The National Prohibition Act of 1919 (usually known as the Volstead Act) was the enabling legislation that made possible the enforcement of the Eighteenth Amendment (Prohibition Amendment).
Noble Experiment
The Noble Experiment was another name for National Prohibition, usually used by supporters and occasionally derisively by opponents.
Refers to legally attempting to prevent the production and consumption of alcohol beverages. National prohibition has been tried in numerous countries around the world during the twentieth century but has always failed and always been repealed. It is the ultimate goal of the control of consumption (more accurately called reduction of consumption) approach to reducing alcohol abuse.

“What America needs now is a drink” declared President Franklin D. Roosevelt at the end of Prohibition.8

Prohibition agent

A Prohibition agent was an enforcement officer charged with enforcing National Prohibition. See dry agent.
Prohibition Party
The Prohibition Party of the U.S. was founded in 1869, has run a presidential candidate in every election since 1872, is the third oldest political party in the country, and has recently experienced a major organizational division.
Prohibition Bureau
See Bureau of Prohibition.
Prescription for medicinal alcohol
It was legal to have prescriptions for medicinal alcohol from physicians.Prescription for medicinal alcohol
Refers to the alcohol content of a beverage. In the US, proof represents twice the alcohol content as a percentage of volume. Thus, a 100 proof beverage is 50% alcohol by volume and a 150 proof beverage is 75% alcohol. It derives from early days when “proof” of a whiskey used in barter was to mix it with gunpowder to see if it contained enough alcohol to burn.
Real McCoy
Bill McCoy was a bootlegger well known for selling quality imported goods: the original “real McCoy.”
The repeal of National Prohibition was accomplished by the Twenty-first Amendment, which became effective on December 5, 1933.

Repeal occurred at 4:31 p.m. on December 5, 1933, ending 13 years, 10 months, 19 days, 17 hours and 32.5 minutes of Prohibition.

Republican Citizens Committee Against National Prohibition
The Republican Citizens Committee Against National Prohibition was founded in 1931 shortly before the 1932 Republican National Convention. It was formed to pressure the party to support Repeal of National Prohibition (1920-1933).
Root beer
A non-alcohol beverage that was developed by temperance activists in the naive hope that it would replace real beer in popularity.
Rum row
Rum rows were lines of ships that anchored just beyond the three-mile limit near large coastal cities and off-loaded illegal onto small speedboats that took it to shore.
Scientific Temperance Federation
The Scientific Temperance Federation was established following death of Mary Hunt of the WCTU to receive her estate, which had been clouded by arrangements she had made to conceal the fortune she had made from her “voluntary” temperance work.
Scientific Temperance Instruction
normalizing alcoholAfter reviewing the results of three studies of Scientific Temperance Instruction practice and outcomes, the committee of scientists and educators concluded that “under the name of ‘Scientific Temperance Instruction’ there has been grafted upon the public school system of nearly all our States an educational scheme relating to alcohol which is neither scientific, nor temperate, nor instructive.”
Speakeasies were illegal drinking establishments that were so called because one typically had to whisper a code word or name through a slot in a locked door to gain admittance.
Twenty-First Amendment
The 21st Amendment repealed the 18th Amendment that had created National Prohibition. It is called the Repeal amendment.
Two-wine theory
The two-wine theory was developed when some Christian churches began to teach that consuming alcohol was a sin and had to reconcile that belief with the fact that Jesus both made and drank wine.

The solution was to insist that Jesus drank grape juice rather than wine. However, when negative consequences followed, the beverage was referred to as wine. The Bible says to “use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake” (1 Timothy 5:23). This admonition caused serious problems for temperance writers, so they insisted that the Bible was actually advising people to rub alcohol on their abdomens.

During Prohibition, temperance activists hired a scholar to rewrite the Bible. He did this by removing all references to alcohol beverage.9

Untouchables (The)
Prohibition Bureau
Eliot Ness

The Untouchables were Eliot Ness and a group of nine other Prohibition agents. They were recruited to fight organized crime in Chicago. The group consisted of Elliot Ness, Lyle Chapman, Barney Cloonan, Tom Friel, Bill Gardner, Mike King, Joe Leeson, Paul Robsky, and Sam Seager. The Bureau of Prohibition was characterized by corruption.

It was later discovered that not all of the untouchables were untouched by corruption. It appears that at least one of Ness’ selections was dishonest.
United Repeal Council
The United Repeal Council was an advisory cabinet. It consisted of leaders of the Crusaders and the Women’s Organization for National Prohibition Reform, the Association Against the Prohibition Amendment, the American Hotel Association, and the Voluntary Committee of Lawyers. It was established early in 1931 to lobby for Repeal planks at both the Republican and Democratic national conventions.
Volstead Act
The popular name for the National Prohibition Act of 1919. That was the enabling legislation making possible the enforcement of the Eighteenth Amendment.
Voluntary Committee of Lawyers
The Voluntary Committee of Lawyers was established by a group of highly influential attorneys in 1927 to promote the repeal of National Prohibition. A second organization of same name has recently been organized for a different purpose.
See Woman’s Christian Temperance Union.
Webb-Kenyon Act
The Webb-Kenyon Act, passed in 1913 by the U.S. Congress, prohibits interstate “shipment or transportation” of alcoholic beverages “in violation of any law of [any] State, Territory, or District of the United States.” The Act was sponsored by Rep. Edwin Y. Webb, Democrat of North Carolina and William S. Kenyon, Republican of Iowa. Congress passed it over the veto of President William Taft.
Wets were people who approved of alcoholic beverages and opposed prohibition. It also refers to any geographic area in which the purchase of alcoholic beverages is legally prohibited.
Wickersham Commission
Wickersham Commission
George W. Wickersham

The Wickersham Commission was established in May of 1929 when President Herbert Hoover appointed former U.S. Attorney General George W. Wickersham to head the U.S. National Commission on Law Observance and Enforcement, popularly called the Wickersham Commission.

Girls who signed Lincoln-Lee Legion pledges of alcohol abstinence.
Wilson Act
To enable dry states to prohibit alcoholic beverages within their borders, Congress passed the Wilson Act in 1890. The law was subsequently upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court and remains in force today.
Wine brick
See bricks of wine.
Woman’s Christian Temperance Union
Committee of Fifty for the Investigation of the Liquor ProblemThe Woman’s Christian Temperance Union was a large and powerful group that promoted National Prohibition. Today it is largely a neo-prohibition organization. Note that the correct word in the name is Woman’s rather than Women’s.
Women’s Moderation Union
The Women’s Moderation Union, founded and headed by M. Louise Gross, helped belie the Women’s Christian Temperance Union’s insistence that it spoke for American women.
Women’s Organization for National Prohibition Reform
The Women’s Organization for National Prohibition Reform (WONPR) was the largest women’s organization opposing Prohibition and calling for Repeal.
Wort (vort) is the sweet mash that is food for yeast that produce alcohol and carbon dioxide.

Prohibition Dictionary

    • Know of any words that should be included in this Prohibition dictionary? If so, please report them to hansondj [at sign] potsdam [dot] edu/. Many thanks!