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Why is Marijuana Called Pot?

Why is Marijuana Called Pot?

Anyone who has encountered the word “pot” know what it refers to. For those who did not receive the memo, though, pot is cannabis. Specifically, marijuana. Take note that industrial-grade hemp is not pot. Confusing the two can lead you to upset some people.

Cannabis is the general name of the plant, used by botanist Carolus Linneaus back in 1753 for his drawing of the plant Cannabis sativa. This name was derived from “kannabis” the Greek word for hemp. Consequently, the Greeks got this name from the word “cana,” which is sanskrit for hemp. However, none of these root ancient words looks anything like the slang word pot, even when they describe the same plant.

Pot is probably the most popular modern alias of cannabis. Ask someone about it and they will most likely know what you are talking about. But where did this name come from? Although there are no official records indicating when and where this name came from, historians believe that the name “pot” might have come from any one of the two places.

“Pot” from Potiguaya

The use of the slang word “pot” for cannabis dates all the way back to the early 1938. However, its linguistic origin remains to be a matter of debate among marijuana historians. One cannabis expert says that one possibility of the origin of the word is the Spanish/Mexican Indian word “portiguaya,” which is a slang word for marijuana.

Back in the 1930s, when the United States was going through the Great Depression and it spread to Mexico, the Mexican people likely sought relief from the word potiguaya. But rather than using the entire word, people shortened it to just “pot.” Potiguaya being the extended version seems rather logical. After all, people shorten words all the time to suit their needs. The word “pot” might have also originated in Arabic.

From “Kif” to “Pot”

“Kif” is a word used by people of the Arabic-speaking north-west regions of Africa. Africans used dried tobacco leaves that are mixed with powdered cannabis to create kif. According to author John Rosevear, Moroccan elderly men sat around smoking pipes that are filled with kif. Then men kept their cannabis in a pot. So if they want to consume kif, they would say “Pass the pipe and pot.” The saying “pass the pot” might have caught on.

Weed vs. Pot

A popular slang for cannabis is “weed.” This word originated from where exactly you would think it would, which is from the plant itself. The ability of marijuana to grow in the wild without much need for tending led to people calling the plant “weed.” The name must have caught on from here. Weed makes more sense for a plant with a flower that induces a feeling of being one with nature.

People still call cannabis pot. You can ask anyone what this word means and they will likely give you an accurate answer. In fact, the word is used in marijuana culture as a form of endearment. When people get together to smoke cannabis, the focus is on fun and relief. You hear pot in a movie and you know things will get silly. This is just from the way the word is used. Other names for marijuana have started cropping up like reefer, ganja, Mary Jane and dope, but none of them have the same effect as pot.

The one thing that is certain is that pot is already here from the time of the Greeks to the Vedic texts to Carolus Linneaus’ time to the present time. This name has made it through history, hidden under different names in various languages around the world, used for spirituality, medicine and fun.


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