An idle witticism by a friend led me to look, briefly, into the etymology of “alcohol.”

As he jokingly suggested, the word comes to English via Arabic:

In general usage, alcohol (from Arabic al-kukhūl الكحول = “the spirit”, “the chemical”.)

The wikipedia entry takes a pleasant jaunt into free association, worth examining:

However, this derivation is suspicious since the current Arabic name for alcohol, الكحول = ALKHWL = al???, does not derive from al-kuhul. The Qur’an in verse 37:47 uses the word الغول = ALGhWL = al-ghawl — properly meaning “spirit” (“spiritual being”) or “demon” — with the sense “the thing that gives the wine its headiness”. The word al-ghawl also originated the English word “ghoul”, and the name of the star Algol. This derivation would, of course, be consistent with the use of “spirit” or “spirit of wine” as synonymous of “alcohol” in most Western languages. (Incidentally, the etymology “alcohol” = “the devil” was used in the 1930s by the U.S. Temperance Movement for propaganda purposes.)

I’ll drink to that!