The Story of Weed Nicknames: Knowing Your Slang!
Estimated 4-minute read
Weed. Pot. Reefer. Marijuana. Kief. Mary Jane. Kush. Hashish. Grass. Loco weed. Dope. Skunk. Ganja. Ding. Dagga. Hay. Blaze. Boom. The humble cannabis plant is no stranger to slang, and over the decades, weed culture has definitely collected a good variety of names to refer to everybody’s favorite herb. Discounting even local and regional slang, there are around 1,200 different nicknames for pot, and every single one of them has an interesting story behind it.
So, to keep up our celebration of the best month of the year, let’s take a crash course in weed linguistics and history, taking a peek into the strange, funny and often bizarre tales behind the best grass names because if the 4/20 is meant for something, it’s for learning. So get grinding, blaze it and enjoy!
Easily the most popular nickname for cannabis, to the extent that “pothead” is basically the official name for someone who really enjoys this hobby, “pot”, like many other terms on this list, has its roots (heh) in the Spanish language.
As you may know, Mexico was (and still is) one of the main sources of cannabis in the United States, so the Mexican terminology for this plant easily bleeds into the English slang by mere proximity. This is the case with “pot”, a nickname derived from the word “potiguaya” (poh-tee-way-a), which is a traditional wine-like beverage that has cannabis buds as an ingredient. Also, if you know Spanish and this word sounds bizarre to you, it’s because it is the shortening of the full name “potación de guaya”, which kind of means “concoction of grief”.
A term that probably brings to mind the very silly “educational” film Reefer Madness (which, incidentally, is great for watching while high), this is another Spanish-derived slang word, this time “grifo” (gree-foh) which is a not-very-kind word to refer to someone who likes to smoke weed a lot in Mexico.
This word brings to mind a kind of “fuzzy, tangled” feeling that is characteristic to low-quality cannabis, and entered the general weed lexicon around the 60s in the United States, so is kind of a quaint word nowadays, but that still symbolizes the cultural high (heh) that cannabis got during this decade.
One of the most common names, and the origin of the popular (and self-explanatory) “Mary Jane” nickname, most people don’t question the origin of this term. After all, it looks and sounds like Spanish, so there’s that, right?
However, you should know something first; the proper name for cannabis in Spanish is “marihuana”, with an “h”, which is pronounced mah-ree-wanah. This is important because this plant is not native to the Americas; as we mentioned in our article about the story of cannabis prohibitions, it probably originated somewhere in South Asia or near China, where they used the name “ma ren hua” for the hemp plant.
So yeah, that makes “Mary Jane” technically a Chinese name. Funny how language works, right?
You might hear this word used to refer to cannabis, which is only technically correct, even if sometimes is used interchangeably with weed. It is true that hash comes from the cannabis plant, but it uses the flowers instead of the leaves, having a more potent, strong effect as a result.
But what about this name? Well, “hash” is the shortened name of “hashish”, an Arabic word that refers to powdered hemp. Quite popular in the ancient Arabian world, this word is also infamous for being the root of the word “Assassin”, of all things, which derived from “hashishin”, or “hashish eaters”, a sort of Islamic sect that carried out the murders of a lot of political leaders of their time. This is quite removed from the use of this slang word today, but we did tell you that some nicknames have kind of weird backstories to them.
Okay, this one is really interesting because, against all expectations, the terms “hemp” and “cannabis”, the actual scientific name of this plant, came from the same source, which is difficult to imagine, isn't it?
But yeah, let’s go back several millennia ago because this predates most languages you know. In fact, the word “cannabis”, which is Persian in origin, is already a loanword from an even older language, Scythian, that gave us “kanaabs” and extended all over the world, until it reached the Vikings. Oh yeah, the Vikings liked their pot, so much that from their Old Germanic language came “hanapiz”, which evolved into “hanaf”, and then “hanf”, the immediate predecessor to “hemp”.
Also, here’s a final fun twist you might not expect: since hemp fiber was commonly used to make different kinds of fabrics, and it was durable and easy to pigment, artists started using it for their paintings under a name you heard before: canvas, which yes, is another word derived from “cannabis”, as it can be traced back to the ancient Latin word “cannapaceus”, which means “made from cannabis”. What we are trying to say is that, if you like to paint and crave a blunt for inspiration beforehand, you are actually doing what you are supposed to do. It’s in the name!
So what do you think? Words are fun things to think about, and with such an old and storied plant as weed, it is not surprising to find these kinds of stories all over the place. Happy 4/20, and we hope you enjoyed this history lesson with a nice blunt!
Comment below our favorite way to call the herb! One of the mentioned above or another one you have in mind (: