For the sweetened and flavored alcoholic beverages, see Liqueur. As examples, this term does not include beverages such as beer, wine, mead, sake, or cider, as they are fermented but not distilled. Liquor bottled with added sugar and added flavorings, such as Grand Marnier, Frangelico, and American schnapps, are known instead as liqueurs. The origin of « liquor » and its close relative « liquid » was the Latin ALCHIMISTES GRECS T1 PDF liquere, meaning « to be fluid ».

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, an early use of the word in the English language, meaning simply « a liquid », can be dated to 1225. The first use the OED mentions of its meaning « a liquid for drinking » occurred in the 14th century. The term « spirit » in reference to alcohol stems from Middle Eastern alchemy. These alchemists were more concerned with medical elixirs than with transmuting lead into gold.