In vino veritas

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Sun dial in the Chateau de Pommard, France

In vino veritas is a Latin phrase that means "in wine, truth", suggesting a person under the influence of alcohol is more likely to speak their hidden thoughts and desires. The phrase is sometimes continued as, "In vino veritas, in aqua sanitas", i.e., "In wine there is truth, in water there is health." Similar phrases exist across cultures and languages.

The expression, together with its counterpart in Greek, "Ἐν οἴνῳ ἀλήθεια" (En oinōi alētheia), is found in Erasmus' Adagia, I.vii.17.[1] Pliny the Elder's Naturalis historia contains an early allusion to the phrase.[2] The Greek expression is traced back to a poem by Alcaeus.[3]

Herodotus asserts that if the Persians decided something while drunk, they made a rule to reconsider it when sober. Authors after Herodotus have added that if the Persians made a decision while sober, they made a rule to reconsider it when they were drunk (Histories, book 1, section 133).[4] The Roman historian Tacitus described how the Germanic peoples kept council at feasts, where they believed that drunkenness prevented the participants from dissembling.[5]

Western Europe[edit]

In Western European countries the expression has been incorporated in local language versions. In Dutch, "De wijn in het lijf, het hart in de mond. Een dronken mond spreekt 's harten grond" ("Wine in the body, heart in the mouth. A drunken mouth speaks the heart's meaning"). In German, "Trunkner Mund verrät des Herzens Grund" ("A drunken mouth betrays the heart's meaning") and "Trunkener Mund tut Wahrheit kund" ("A drunken mouth does a favor to the truth"). In English, "What soberness conceals, drunkenness reveals." and "He speaks in his drink what he thought in his drouth". In French, "Ce que le sobre tient au cœur est sur la langue du buveur." ("What the sober hold in their heart is on the drinker's tongue"). In Spanish, "Despues de beber cada uno dice su parecer" ("After drinking everyone speaks their opinion") and "Cuando el vino entra el secreto se sale afuera" ("When the wine enters, the secret comes out").


In Russian, «Что у трезвого на уме, то у пьяного на языке» ("What a sober man has in his mind, the drunk one has on his tongue").


The Babylonian Talmud (תלמוד בבלי) contains the passage: "נכנס יין יצא סוד", i.e., "Wine enters, secret goes out."[6] It continues, "בשלשה דברים אדם ניכר בכוסו ובכיסו ובכעסו", i.e., "In three things is a man revealed: in his wine goblet, in his purse, and in his wrath."[7] (In the original Hebrew, the words for "his goblet" (coso), "his purse" (ciso - lit. his pocket), and "his wrath" (co'aso) rhyme, and there is a further play on words, as they all use the root "כס".)


In Persian, مستی و راستی ("With drunkenness comes the truth").


In Chinese, ("After wine blurts truthful speech").


In Chichewa, Phika mowa unve chinapha amako ("Brew beer and you will hear what killed your mother").[citation needed]

In Chibemba, Ubwalwa nisokolola twebo (" beer makes one reveal secrets").


In the 1770s, Benjamin Cooke wrote a glee by the title of In Vino Veritas. His lyrics (with modern punctuation):

Round, round with the glass, boys, as fast as you can,
Since he who don't drink cannot be a true man.
For if truth is in wine, then 'tis all but a whim
To think a man's true when the wine's not in him.
Drink, drink, then, and hold it a maxim divine
That there's virtue in truth, and there's truth in good wine![8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ See W. Barker, The Adages of Erasmus (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2001), pp. 100-103. Ἐν οἴνῳ ἀλήθεια: Diogenianus, Cent. 4.81. See Andreas Schottus, Paroimiai hellēnikai (Antwerp: Plantin, 1612), p. 215.
  2. ^ Nat. hist. 14, 141: "...volgoque veritas iam attributa vino est."
  3. ^ Alc. fr. 366 Voigt: "οἶνος, ὦ φίλε παῖ, καὶ ἀλάθεα" (oinos, ō phile pai, kai alāthea), "Wine, dear boy, and truth...". Nothing is known about the poem except for these words, which are quoted by a later scholiast. See G. Tsomis, Zusammenschau der Frühgriechischen Monodischen Melik: Alkaios, Sappho, Anakreon (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner, 1999), pp. 160-161.
  4. ^ Encyclopedia of Food and Culture, Vol. 2, Food Production to Nuts, Solomon H. Katz (Editor in Chief), 2003, Charles Scribner’s Sons, p. 198. ISBN 0-684-80566-9 (v. 2).
  5. ^ Tacitus, Germania, 22.
  6. ^ See Tractate Eruvin 65a (מסכת עירובין, פרק ו, דף סה,א גמרא).
  7. ^ Id. at 65b (דף סה,ב גמרא).
  8. ^ Warren, Thomas, ed. A collection of catches, canons & glees. Wilmington, Delaware: Mellifont Press, 1970. ISBN 0842000267. Reprint of a collection, originally in thirty-two volumes, of glees published by various publishers in London, from 1762 to 1793. Thomas Warren (ca. 1730–1974) was the original editor of the collection. The reprint is not complete. For more information, see the University of Michigan library's holding here.

External links[edit]