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The Drunkard's Progress, a lithograph by Nathaniel Currier supporting the temperance movement (January 1846)
An allegorical map on temperance, accompanied by a lengthy poem. The "Religion Channel" was a strong current away from "Misery Regions" and the "Reprobate Empire", 1846
Share of population who never drink alcohol

Teetotalism is the practice or promotion of complete personal abstinence from alcoholic beverages. A person who practices (and possibly advocates) teetotalism is called a teetotaler (plural teetotalers) or is simply said to be teetotal. The teetotalism movement was first started in Preston, England, in the early 19th century.[1] The Preston Temperance Society was founded in 1833 by Joseph Livesey, who was to become a leader of the temperance movement and the author of The Pledge: "We agree to abstain from all liquors of an intoxicating quality whether ale, porter, wine or ardent spirits, except as medicine."[2] Today, a number of temperance organizations exist that promote teetotalism as a virtue.[3]


According to the etymological dictionaries[not specific enough to verify], the tee- in teetotal is the letter T, so it is actually t-total, though it was never spelled that way.[4] The word is first recorded in 1832 in a general sense in an American source, and in 1833 in England in the context of abstinence. Since at first it was used in other contexts as an emphasised form of total, the tee- is presumably a reduplication of the first letter of total, much as contemporary idiom today might say "total with a capital T".[5] Possibly a reinterpretation to mean temperance total influenced the semantic development; it is said that as early as 1827 in some Temperance Societies signing a "T" after one's name had signified one's pledge to temperance.

Richard Turner is credited with using the existing slang word, "teetotally", for abstinence from all intoxicating liquors.[5] One anecdote describes a meeting of the Preston Temperance Society in 1833. Richard Turner,[2] a member of the society, in giving a speech said "I'll be reet down out-and-out t-t-total for ever and ever."[6] Walter William Skeat noted that the Turner anecdote had been recorded by temperance advocate Joseph Livesey, and posited that the term may have been inspired by the teetotum;[7] however, James B. Greenough stated that "nobody ever thought teetotum and teetotaler were etymologically connected."[8]

A variation on the above account is found on the pages of The Charleston Observer:

Teetotalers.—The origin of this convenient word, (as convenient almost, although not so general in its application as loafer,) is, we imagine, known but to few who use it. It originated, as we learn from the Landmark, with a man named Turner, a member of the Preston Temperance Society, who, having an impediment of speech, in addressing a meeting remarked, that partial abstinence from intoxicating liquors would not do; they must insist upon tee-tee-(stammering) tee total abstinence. Hence total abstainers have been called teetotalers.[9]

According to historian Daniel Walker Howe (What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848, 2007) the term was derived from the practice of American preacher and temperance advocate Lyman Beecher. He would take names at his meetings of people who pledged alcoholic temperance and noted those who pledged total abstinence with a T. Such persons became known as Teetotallers.


Some common reasons for choosing teetotalism are psychological, religious, health,[10] medical, familial, philosophical, social, political, past alcoholism, or sometimes it is simply a matter of taste or preference. When at drinking establishments, teetotalers (or teetotallers) either abstain from drinking completely, or consume non-alcoholic beverages such as water, juice, tea, coffee, non-alcoholic soft drinks, virgin drinks, mocktails, and alcohol-free beer.

Most teetotaler organizations also demand from their members that they do not promote or produce alcoholic intoxicants.[11][12]


Abstention from alcohol is a tenet of a number of religious faiths, including Hinduism, such as the Swaminarayans; Sikhism; Baháʼís; Jains; and Meivazhi-ites.

"Khamr" is the term for all intoxicants which are prohibited in Islam. (See Religion and alcohol § Islam)

Similarly, one of the five precepts of Buddhism is abstaining from intoxicating substances that disturb the peace and self-control of the mind, but it is formulated as a training rule to be assumed voluntarily rather than as a commandment.

Many Christian groups, such as Methodists and Quakers, are often associated with teetotalism due to their traditionally strong support for temperance movements, as well as prohibition. And a number of Christian denominations forbid the consumption of alcohol, or recommend the non-consumption thereof, including the New Order Amish, Latter-Day Saints, Seventh-day Adventists, Mennonites (both Old Order and Conservative), Church of the Brethren members, and Christian Scientists. Many members of these religious groups are also required to refrain from selling such products. A free translation of the New Testament, the Purified Translation of the Bible (2000), translates in a way that promotes teetotalism. However, the term 'wine' (and similar terms) being consumed by God's people occurs over two hundred times in both the Old and New Testament.

With respect to Methodism, the Church of the Nazarene and Wesleyan Methodist Church, both denominations in the Wesleyan-Arminian tradition, teach abstinence from alcohol.[13][14] Members of denominations in the conservative holiness movement, such as the Allegheny Wesleyan Methodist Connection and Evangelical Wesleyan Church, practice temperance and teetotalism, thus abstaining from alcohol and other drugs.[15] The Book of Discipline of the Immanuel Missionary Church, a Methodist denomination, states:[16]

Temperance is the moderate use of that which is beneficial, and a total abstinence from that which is harmful. Therefore no member shall be permitted to use or sell intoxicating liquors, tobacco, or harmful drugs, or to be guilty of things which are only for the gratification of the depraved appetite, and are unbecoming and inconsistent with our Christian profession (I Cor. 10:31). —General Standards, Immanuel Missionary Church[16]

Uniformed members of the Salvation Army ("soldiers" and "officers") make a promise on joining the movement to observe lifelong abstinence from alcohol. This dates back to the early years of the organisation, and the missionary work among alcoholics.

With respect to Restorationist Christianity, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints abstain from alcoholic drinks (and other substances) based on their adherence to the faith's code of health called "The Word of Wisdom".

Eastern Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the Lutheran Churches, Oriental Orthodox Churches, and the Anglican Communion all require wine in their central religious rite of the eucharist, Churches in the Methodist tradition require that "pure, unfermented juice of the grape" be used in the sacrament of Holy Communion.[17] (See Christianity and alcohol.)

Some Christians choose to practice teetotalism throughout the Lent season, thus giving up alcoholic beverages as their Lenten sacrifice.[18][19]

Research on non-drinkers[edit]

Dominic Conroy and Richard de Visser published research in Psychology and Health which studied strategies used by college students who would like to resist peer pressure to drink alcohol in social settings. The research hinted that students are less likely to give in to peer pressure if they have strong friendships and make a decision not to drink before social interactions.[20]

A 2015 study by the Office for National Statistics showed that young Britons were more likely to be teetotalers than their parents.[21]

According to Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health, published by WHO in 2011, close to half of the world’s adult population (45 per cent) are life-time abstainers. The Eastern Mediterranean Region, consisting of the Muslim countries in the Middle East and North Africa, is by far the lowest alcohol consuming region in the world, both in terms of total adult per capita consumption and prevalence of non-drinkers, i.e. 87.8 percent lifetime abstainers.[22]

Notable teetotalers[edit]

Theatre, film and television[edit]





See also[edit]


  1. ^ Road to Zion - British Isles, BYU-TV; "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 11 February 2011. Retrieved 15 February 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ a b Gately, Iain (May 2009). Drink: A Cultural History of Alcohol. New York: Gotham Books. p. 248. ISBN 978-1-592-40464-3.
  3. ^ Cox, David J.; Stevenson, Kim; Harris, Candida; Rowbotham, Judith (12 June 2015). Public Indecency in England 1857-1960: 'A Serious and Growing Evil'. Routledge. p. 164. ISBN 978-1-317-57383-8.
  4. ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary - T, page 5". Retrieved 30 April 2007.
  5. ^ a b Kruth, Rebecca; Curzan, Anne (22 September 2019). "TWTS: Why "teetotaler" has nothing to do with tea". Michigan Radio. Retrieved 21 May 2021.
  6. ^ Quinion, Michael. "Teetotal". worldwidewords.org. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  7. ^ An Etymological Dictionary of the English Language, by Walter William Skeat; published by Clarendon Press, 1893
  8. ^ Words and Their Ways, by James B. Greenough; published 1902
  9. ^ The Charleston Observer vol. 10, no. 44 (29 October 1836): 174, columns 4-5.
  10. ^ "6 great things that happen to your body when you give up drinking". 20 January 2016.
  11. ^ Hanson, David J. "Anti-Alcohol Industry 101: Overview of the Neo-Temperance Movement". Alcohol Problems and Solutions. Retrieved 12 May 2021.
  12. ^ Lawson, Wilfrid (August 1893). "Prohibition in England". The North American Review. 157 (441): 152. Retrieved 12 May 2021.
  13. ^ The discipline of the Wesleyan Church 2016. Eastlack, Anita, Wesleyan Publishing House. Indianapolis, Indiana. ISBN 9781632571984. OCLC 1080251593.CS1 maint: others (link)
  14. ^ "2017-2021 Manual". Church of the Nazarene. Retrieved 27 April 2018.
  15. ^ The Discipline of the Allegheny Wesleyan Methodist Connection (Original Allegheny Conference). Salem: Allegheny Wesleyan Methodist Connection. 2014. p. 37.
  16. ^ a b Discipline of the Immanuel Missionary Church. Shoals, Indiana: Immanuel Missionary Church. 1986. p. 17.
  17. ^ Dunkle, William Frederick; Quillian, Joseph D. (1970). Companion to The Book of Worship. Abingdon Press. p. 61. ISBN 978-0-687-09258-1. The pure, unfermented juice of the grape shall be used. The "fair white linen cloth" is merely a table covering that is appropriate for this central sacrament of the church.
  18. ^ "Drink less this Lent". Pioneer Total Abstinence Association. 22 February 2009. Retrieved 17 March 2019.
  19. ^ Gilbert, Kathy L. (21 February 2012). "Could you go alcohol-free for Lent?". United Methodist News Service. Retrieved 17 March 2019.
  20. ^ Conroy, Dominic; de Visser, Richard (2014). "Being a non-drinking student: An interpretative phenomenological analysis". Psychology and Health. 29 (5): 536–551. doi:10.1080/08870446.2013.866673. ISSN 0887-0446. PMID 24245802. S2CID 7115520.
  21. ^ Neville, Sarah (13 February 2015). "Young Britons turning teetotal in growing numbers, survey says". Financial Times. Retrieved 16 September 2016.
  22. ^ "Global status report on alcohol and health 2018". www.who.int.
  23. ^ Julian Hall (11 May 2012). "Simon Amstell: Numb, Hexagon Theatre, Reading – Reviews – Comedy". The Independent. Retrieved 14 August 2012.
  24. ^ "Simon Amstell – Surprisingly sober celebs". Virgin Media. 29 September 2011.
  25. ^ The Late Late Show. Season 9. Episode 39. March 7, 2013. CBS.
  26. ^ "Now Ewan is drunk on sobriety". independent. Retrieved 26 February 2021.
  27. ^ "With gratitude, I celebrate 45 years of sobriety". www.instagram.com. Retrieved 27 February 2021.
  28. ^ "Daniel Radcliffe: why I don't drink alcohol any more". www.telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 3 July 2021.
  29. ^ LEE, PATTY. "Jason Bateman's struggle with alcohol and drugs was like 'Risky Business'". nydailynews.com. Retrieved 3 July 2021.
  30. ^ Jme on Twitter: "I didn't turn. I stopped eating animals. Why? Education RT @Mahesh93: @JmeBBK why did you turn vegan?" Archived 8 December 2015 at the Wayback Machine. Twitter.com (21 January 2014). Retrieved on 2015-11-02.
  31. ^ The Police vs Grime Music – A Noisey Film Archived 12 August 2017 at the Wayback Machine. YouTube (29 May 2014). Retrieved on 2015-11-02.
  32. ^ "Form 696: The Police Versus Grime Music". Vice Media. Archived from the original on 16 July 2016. Retrieved 9 June 2015.
  33. ^ "Count" Regrets Nothing (04.07.2009), by Rune Midtskogen
  34. ^ Interview with Varg Vikernes (10.05.2005), by Chris Mitchell
  35. ^ @FINALLEVEL (24 January 2021). "I don't smoke or drink... Never have" (Tweet). Retrieved 27 February 2021 – via Twitter.
  36. ^ @FINALLEVEL (4 July 2015). "Ice Fact: I have zero tattoos. Have never smoked weed or cigarettes. And don't drink alcohol…. Now THATS Gangsta…" (Tweet). Retrieved 27 February 2021 – via Twitter.
  37. ^ "Badshah – 2019 Celebrity 100". Forbes India. Retrieved 31 March 2020.
  38. ^ "29 Sober Celebrities". hisurely.com.
  39. ^ III, William E. Ketchum. "Gucci Mane Becomes Rap's Role Model for Sobriety: "I Was a Drug Addict, I Was Numb"". DJBooth. Retrieved 3 July 2021.
  40. ^ Slavik, Nathan. ""I Needed It For My Edge": Royce da 5'9" Comes Clean About Alcoholism & Music". DJBooth. Retrieved 3 July 2021.
  41. ^ McCreery, Lonnie (10 December 2018). "Jeff Tweedy of Wilco Talks Fighting Addiction, Depression, and Anxiety". Epiphany Sober Living. Retrieved 3 July 2021.
  42. ^ Smith, Courtney E. "Bethany Cosentino Got Sober. Then She Wrote A New Best Coast Album. Now What?". www.refinery29.com. Retrieved 3 July 2021.
  43. ^ a b Nagourney, Adam (30 October 2020). "In Trump and Biden, a Choice of Teetotalers for President". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 27 January 2021.
  44. ^ August 7, Agence France-Presse (7 October 2021). "In hard-drinking Japan, alcohol-free drinks meet growing demand from the 'sober curious' and teetotallers". South China Morning Post.
  45. ^ August 12, Tyler Cowen (12 August 2017). "I'm with the Mormons on this one - how about you?". Marginal REVOLUTION.
  46. ^ Reuters Staff (21 June 2007). "French winemakers fret over Teetotal Sarkozy" – via www.reuters.com.
  47. ^ Goode, Erica (17 November 1998). "Insane or Just Evil? A Psychiatrist Takes a New Look at Hitler". The New York Times. Retrieved 15 July 2021.
  48. ^ "ZEIT ONLINE | Lesen Sie zeit.de mit Werbung oder im PUR-Abo. Sie haben die Wahl". www.zeit.de. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
  49. ^ Malone, Sam (7 November 2010). "Gareth: 'I can't stand the booze'". WalesOnline. Retrieved 27 February 2021.
  50. ^ "Top 10 Famous Footballers Who Don't Drink Alcohol (Pictures Below) - Opera News". ng.opera.news. Retrieved 26 June 2021.

External links[edit]

  • The dictionary definition of teetotal at Wiktionary