Part 2 ~ Cannabis Aliases

Here’s Part 2 of our WordBlurb on the origins of common names for our pet plant. An exhaustive list would be its own never-ending website construction project, so this is just a brief little exploration of some of the most common terms for the common magical herb. Cheers to Goodness!

dank From Swedish: unpleasantly musty, damp, cold, and clammy. Anyone who knows how this ever became slang for top-quality cannabis buds, please fill us in!

doobie Origin unknown: ‘cannabis cigarette’. I like to think it originated when someone offered to share a couple of them and misinterpreted a slurred, dry-lipped reply of “Indubitably!” as “A doobie!” Then they laughed nonstop about each other’s word until dawn. And that morning a slang icon was born. I like to think that, and then I like to stop thinking it.

dope According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, dope dates from 1807 in American English, meaning ‘sauce, gravy, or thick liquid’. It originates from the Dutch word doop (pronounced as English dope), meaning ‘thick dipping sauce’. The meaning ‘drug’ came in 1889 from the habit of smoking a semi-liquid and highly addictive opium preparation. The meaning ‘foolish, stupid person’, somewhat surprisingly, came before the drug connotation (1851) and conveys the sense of ‘thick-headed’, or ‘head filled with thick sauce’. The meaning ‘inside information’ (1901) may come from the knowledge of which horse(s) had been given drugs prior to a race. For all these reasons, at MagicalButter we prefer to let dope join marijuana in the dank and dusty lost-baggage closet of defunct terms from yesteryear.

ganja Dravidian word for cannabis flowers and leaves, reputed to be linked to ancient words for imagination and inspiration

hemp Cannabis sativa grown tall, sparsely branched, and close together for its seeds and stalk fiber. Very low in THC content, it contains CBD* in appreciable amounts only in its leaves and flowers—not in its seeds or stalks. Accordingly the DEA has mandated that medical CBD made of imported hemp, to be sold legally in the U.S., must be sourced only from seeds and stalks.

herb Innocuous, common slang nickname for cannabis of any variety. So named because the plant is a type of herb. Everything isn’t complicated.

joint From French: adjective meaning ‘joined’. By 1821, ‘joint’ had come to mean ‘annex’, or a side room joined to a main room. By 1877, it had morphed into U.S. slang for a place, building, or establishment—especially an opium den. Its first usage in the sense of ‘cannabis cigarette’ dates to 1938.

marijuana (Origin unknown.) Commonly held to be an intentional distortion of the Spanish marihuana and pejorative slang for cannabis; considered by some an ethnic slur. This view holds that the word is a relic of a bygone era when U.S. federal government agents, left suddenly idle by the repeal of alcohol Prohibition, sought out something else enjoyable to prohibit and punish. The Prohibition of cannabis began as a bigoted, starkly amoral and deviant effort to rid the country of non-whites, especially Mexican immigrants, by criminalizing them via their custom of smoking the herb they called marihuana. The spelling was then Americanized to marijuana deliberately to make it look more ‘foreign’ and thus threatening, while the familiar name cannabis, like the plant itself, was in effect banned from official use.

Alan Piper of the University of Pennsylvania Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations distills three competing theories for the origin of marijuana: the early Spanish word mejorana ‘marjoram’, an herb of the oregano family; the Chinese ma ren hua (hemp seed flowers); or possibly a loan word from an unidentified native South American Indian language into Spanish. Many other theories also exist. prefers the common and scientific name cannabis or the informal generic herb.

marihuana Spanish nickname for smoked or ingested cannabis. Its origin remains deeply obscure. Even Piper says his 20-page treatise on the subject “does not answer the question of the mysterious etymology of the word marihuana, but hopefully it opens the field of enquiry to those interested in pursuing the matter further.”

pot Shortening of Spanish slang potiguaya, from potación de guaya, literally ‘grief potion’: a concoction made of cannabis flowers and leaves steeped in a brew of wine or brandy and then drunk, presumably to alleviate symptoms of grief or depression

reefer Nickname for cannabis, especially a hand-rolled cigarette, for its resemblance to a ship’s sail that has been rolled up (the nautical term is to reef the sail)

weed Any plant you don’t like, don’t want, and would prefer to see eradicated, or ripped out by the roots. How this word could ever be applied to a wondrous, healthful, and life-affirming herb like cannabis, we’ll never know!


* Cannabis plants of all varieties actually contain THC acid and CBD acid. THC and CBD must be created from the acid forms by drying, aging, and especially heating the herb (decarboxylation). The process occurs automatically when smoking or vaporizing; prior to ingestion, we recommend using the DecarBox, created especially for the purpose.

Do you have a favorite pet name for your favorite pet herb? Share it with us!