Ever thought about it? If not that’s the occasion to find out. This is not about spirit making stricto sensu but this is a good story to take away and impress people at dinner. Maybe. Actually it is not such a random fact as it may seem: it tells a lot about our societies. So why is a bar called a bar?

When does the word appear ?
(Let’s get things straight: this article wonders when did the word appear as a reference to where alcohol is served (taverns have kind of always existed), so in this article this is not about understanding the beginning of the concept of a bar but of use of the word bar.)

group of people gathering inside bar
Photo by Marcus Herzberg on Pexels.com

First time it is mentioned as such:
“He was well acquainted with one of the seruants..of whom he could haue two pennyworth of Rose-water for a peny..wherefore he would step to the barre vnto him.” This sentence was written in 1592 by R. Greene Thirde Pt. Conny-catching sig. D,

In 1616 or 1623 Shakespeare is using it in Twelfth Night
“Bring your hand to’th Buttry barre, and let it drinke.”

In 1712 J. Addison writes “[I] laid down my Penny at the Barr..and made the best of my way to Cheapside.”

In the 19th century the word is widely used, even outside of the UK (and its English speaking colonies) but when used, it mostly still refers to as a place where alcohol is served in the US. The word will become universal in the 20th centory.

It’s interesting that it is so much associated with English language as it comes from an old French word actually, itself coming from Vulgar Latin *barra rod”, of obscure, perhaps of pre-Latin origin. The word “barre” also relates to the word barrier. It enters the English language between 1175 and 1225.

It is said that the bar was separating the persons wanted to drink, and the person tending the drink. Or as Wikipedia puts it “the term “bar” is derived from the typically metal bar under the countertop under which drinks are served”

Other think it might have refered to checkpoints on the way home…