Is a cannabis plant that’s known by any other name taste as sweet? Considering there are over 1,200 cannabis synonyms, our guess is: yes! Whether you call it cannabis, marijuana, pot or weed, there’s no doubt that its name doesn’t affect the experience.
Yet why does cannabis have so many names? Was it out of necessity, or was it for fun?
Cannabis’s synonyms have been around, well, for as long as cannabis has been around (pst… like thousands of years). The slang words and synonyms for this plant have developed as a way for users to show their creative and collective love of the substance — as well as evade the authorities.
So, what came first, the cannabis or its slangs? What the heck is marijuana, and which of these names are “good” words for cannabis and which are considered “bad?” You may or may not be surprised to learn that some of the words have been used to criminalize and demonize the plant. Many are also rooted in racist rhetoric.
We’re about to dissect the real meaning behind the synonyms for cannabis and discover the roots and the etymology of these words. Not every synonym or slang word for cannabis should be treated equally, and you might be surprised to find out where some of these words come from — and what they actually mean.
Cannabis Sativa and Its Synonyms: What Does Cannabis Mean Anyway?
The word cannabis simply comes from the plant’s Latin name: Cannabis sativa (or, Cannabis indica, depending on the strain). According to North Carolina State University, other common names for cannabis include marijuana, hashish, hemp, marihuana and pot.
Traveling further back in time, the Latin word is derived from the Greek word, kánnabis. The Iranians called it kanab.
Cannabis is a part of the Cannabacea family of plants, which includes trees and herbs. An example of a Cannabacea tree is the Celtis tree (nettle tree). While we use cannabis in everyday language, the word isn’t used as often as its synonyms. In fact, it’s more common to hear someone use the words “weed, pot or marijuana” than cannabis.
The Cannabis sativa is an annual plant and comes from Eastern Asia. The plant thrives in wet climates. It bears flowers, and it’s these flowers that contain the highest amounts of THC in the plant.
Carl Linnaeus (considered the father of modern taxonomy) was the first person to classify cannabis back in 1753. In the 1500s, botanist Leonhart Fuchs included cannabis in his book, “The New Herbal of 1543.” Yet cannabis goes back even further than the 1500s. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration Museum, “The oldest known written record on cannabis use comes from the Chinese Emperor Shen Nung in 2727 B.C.” The Greeks, Romans and Islamic empire all used cannabis as well. The Spanish were known to use hemp in textiles, and the word hemp comes from the Old English word, hænep.
Clearly, when it comes to cannabis there’s never been just one word to describe this plant, medicine and drug.
Why Are There So Many Words for Cannabis?
Why do we need so many slang terms, words and synonyms for cannabis anyway? According to slang historian Jonathan Green in the TIME article, these words prevented authorities from discovering what people were talking about. “The terminology doesn’t really emphasize illegality: It is the illegality that created the need for the terminology,” Green told TIME. “It is also simply fun.”
Since cannabis has only been illegal in the U.S. since 1937, many of these slang terms were coined after that year.
In addition to the words coined to hide cannabis use from the authorities, other slang words surfaced. Not only were these words considered “good,” but some of them were derogatory (we know: we’re clutching our pearls, too). Cannabis slang was used to evade the authorities, have a little fun — and even oppress minorities (but more on that later).
Slang words are also poetic. When you refer to cannabis as “green” or “Mary Jane,” you’re using language to express your feelings. Using a derogatory word for cannabis? It’s an effective way to communicate your distaste for it. Using a positive word for it? It’s as good as a one-word love poem.
Most Commonly Used Cannabis Words
Before we get too far into the cannabis synonym lexicon, let’s talk about a few words we’re probably all familiar with. There’re several synonyms for cannabis that are so commonly used that they would no longer evade the authorities.
We can probably thank pop culture for popularizing these words. Movies, such as “Up in Smoke,” “The Big Lebowski,” “Dazed and Confused” and “Friday” all introduced new words for cannabis that the general public might not have previously known.
Some of the most common cannabis slang words include pot, weed and marijuana.
Civilized conducted a poll to find out their readers’ favorite slang word for cannabis. You guessed it: the winner was “pot.” Yet where does this word even come from? Of all the obvious slang words for cannabis, it’s hard to believe that pot became the most commonly used. According to Civilized, the word probably originated from the Mexican term, “Potaguaya,” another word that could (maybe) mean cannabis. Ultimately, it seems no one is 100 percent certain where the term originated.
Weed is a little easier to get behind. Cannabis isn’t classified as a weed, but it kind of looks like one — no? According to Slate, “weed” originally popped up in the dictionary “American Speech” in 1929 as one of the new words for that year.
Marijuana is an easy one. It comes from the Spanish word “marihuana.” Probably. It’s also similar to the Chinese word ma ren hua or hemp seed flower. The truth? No one knows for sure the origins of the word marijuana, but there’s plenty of speculation.
Sadly, marijuana is somewhat of a loaded word. Many people choose not to use the word, thanks to its racist and derogatory subtext.
Marijuana Vs. Cannabis
Here’s where things get murky: one of the most commonly used names for cannabis is considered derogatory by many users, politicians and historians. Many people even falsely believe that marijuana is the proper Latin name for the plant — not cannabis.
As we mentioned before, the roots of the word marijuana are pretty confusing. According to an article published in The Stranger in April 2016:
“The term “marijuana” came to the United States via Mexico. How it came to Mexico is still a mystery. Scholar Alan Piper made a valiant attempt at its etymology in a 2005 issue of the academic journal Sino-Platonic Papers but came to the conclusion that it could have come from China, or maybe Spain, or maybe it was already in North America.
‘Of all the multifarious terms associated with the cannabis plant,’ he wrote, ‘marihuana is one of the most universally recognized and used in the English-speaking world, yet its origins remain deeply obscure.’ He goes on to say, ‘The word marijuana, together with the use of herbal cannabis as an intoxicant, is consistently identified as coming into the USA from Mexico, being brought there by migrant workers.’”
It’s not until the 1930s that the word takes on a derogatory tone. The head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, Harry Anslinger, used the term specifically when he asked Congress to pass a bill prohibiting cannabis.
He could have used the term cannabis — but he chose not to. At the time, the term marijuana wasn’t as widely known as it was today. Anslinger even needed to explain to Congress where the term “marijuana” came from. According to the Stranger article, he used the recreational word for cannabis to nullify its medical uses and label it as a recreational drug.
The same Stranger article goes on to provide even more evidence.
“Dr. William C. Woodward, legislative counsel of the American Medical Association, showed up to the same 1937 hearing to protest Anslinger’s feigned semantic innocence, accusing him of switching the name to fool groups that would have otherwise been opposed to the bill.
‘I use the word ‘cannabis’ in preference to the word ‘marihuana,’ because cannabis is the correct term for describing the plant and its products,” Woodward said. “It was the use of the term ‘marihuana’ rather than the use of the term ‘cannabis’ or the use of the term ‘Indian hemp’ that was responsible, as you realized, probably, a day or two ago, for the failure of the dealers in Indian hempseed to connect up this bill with their business until rather late in the day.’”
Not only did Aslinger use the terms marihuana and marijuana to demonize cannabis, but he used it to demonize people of color as well.
“There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the U.S., and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their satanic music, jazz and swing, result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others.”
While the majority of media and medical professionals used the plant’s Latin name, Cannabis, the slang term marijuana was almost always used as a way to demonize or discredit its medicinal or therapeutic uses.
The Stranger reporter, Tobias Coughlin-Bogue, decides at the end of his column that he’s no longer going to use the word marijuana because of its history. In a similar article in the Guardian, reporter Alex Alperin takes a slightly different stance.
“As with other symbols of past oppression, from the pink triangle to the N-word, there’s a powerful tradition of marginalized communities redeploying symbols of their oppression. It’s these communities – not businesses – who have the moral authority to decide if marijuana is a racist word which should be avoided or an important reminder of a more racist past.”
The Verge reporter Angela Chen takes a totally different stance in her article “Why it can be OK to call it ‘marijuana’ instead of ‘cannabis’:
“Not only is it a simple way to describe to ‘the flower part of drug-type cannabis,’ it reminds us that the plant isn’t just medicine. Switching to just the scientific, medicinal-sounding “cannabis” doesn’t necessarily make it clear that it’s OK to use cannabis for non-scientific, non-medicinal reasons.
And replacing ‘marijuana’ with ‘cannabis’ can erase its history.”
Chen goes on to cite Colorado College assistant professor Santiago Guerra’s stance on the subject: that it was a word used in rebellion in Mexico.
“When Europeans first arrived in present-day Mexico, they ordered the indigenous residents to convert to Christianity and stop growing their own psychoactive drugs (morning glory, peyote and psilocybin). Instead, the indigenous Mexicans were told to grow hemp for rope.
That’s when the residents discovered that this hemp plant could be psychoactive. To hide that they were using it, they started to code the language. Many plants in Mexico have some version of ‘mary’ in the name to please the Spanish who pushed Christianity. And so, the plant became ‘marihuana.’”
And since cannabis isn’t simply used as a medicine, only calling the plant by its Latin name would be sort of a misnomer. It would, in essence, be denying and invalidating its use as a recreational drug.
The demonization of the word marijuana wasn’t exclusive the U.S. either. According to an NPR article, Mexican newspapers had been doing just that long before Anslinger’s use of the word at the 1937 congressional hearing. The U.S. just did what the U.S. did best: recycle the racism and hate of another country and use it to demonize the same word — 60 years later.
Good and Bad Cannabis Synonyms
It should come as no surprise at this point that cannabis’s synonyms can be categorized as “good” and “bad” words for the drug. It should also come as no surprise that many of these synonyms aren’t just good or bad — they land on both lists.
As a drug’s slang words evolve over time, users drop old words and develop new ones. Those wanting to criminalize or demoralize the drug adopt the words that suit their cause. Even those who don’t wish to demoralize the drug can have a negative effect on it.
Take the movie “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.” The filmmakers simply wanted to make a fun movie that would appeal to a large audience. Yet, the movie’s goofy, light-hearted plot has often been hijacked by cannabis’s critics and used to make the point: cannabis users are never taken seriously.
Good Cannabis Synonyms
“Good” cannabis synonyms are often created to evade the authorities or pay homage to the drug. Some of these good slang words might include:
- Bud/kind bud
- Christmas tree
- Giggle smoke
- Pineapple Express
- Mary Jane
Again, many of these slang words often cross over into the “negative” synonym list. Many of their origins are linked to cannabis’s clandestine nature. Others refer to the strain of cannabis (such as Pineapple Express, made famous in the titular stoner movie).
While we’re at it, let’s take a look at the word “stoner.” It was originally used to describe someone as drunk (aka stone-cold drunk). It was later used for cannabis intoxication, too. The word clearly doesn’t have positive undertones. Yet cannabis users have “taken the word back” by using it to describe the genre of movies that depict cannabis culture.
“Bad” Cannabis Synonyms
“Bad” or negative cannabis synonyms might include words used to demonize cannabis culture. We’ve already done “marijuana” to death, so let’s look at a few others that might be used as “bad” words for cannabis.
Popularized by the 1936 movie “Reefer Madness,” the word reefer is often used to criminalize cannabis — and inject fear into the hearts of the masses. This movie demonized cannabis users and used racist messages to push its message.
Similar to the words marijuana and stoner, many cannabis users have “reclaimed” the word reefer to normalize it.
Most cannabis users get excited at the word “dank.” The Swedish word for sticky and damp wouldn’t necessarily be considered a “positive” word outside of the cannabis community. In fact, there’s scientific evidence behind the hatred of the word “moist.”
Yet cannabis users know that these are good words to describe a plant. In fact, the danker the better. Some words simply get a bad rap because the general public simply doesn’t understand the plant.
If you describe something as “dope” it’s gotta be good, right? Wrong. Or at least, not always. Using the word dope to describe cannabis is another misnomer. It’s actually a word for heroin. After the criminalization of cannabis, the general public that was not in the know started incorrectly using the word.
List of Top Names for Weed: Cannabis Synonyms Meanings A to Z
As we mentioned before, there are over 1,200 for cannabis. While we’re not naming all of them, below is a comprehensive list of some of the most common and popular slang words, nicknames and synonyms for cannabis.
420 is another slang word for cannabis that refers to a time, date and police code. This one is actually a reverse of other code names because it wasn’t created to evade the police — it was created by the police. Legend has it that it was popularized by a Grateful Dead flyer. Today, it’s customary to partake in cannabis on April 20 at 4:20 p.m.
The word “ace” simply refers to something that’s high-end or the best. Essentially, ace refers to cannabis that’s the best of the best. And according to many cannabis users, the act of partaking can be one of the best things ever.
Airplane is a literal reference to “getting high.” Airplanes can get you pretty high in the atmosphere — so can cannabis.
The Drug Enforcement Administration classified ‘alfalfa’ as a known slang term for cannabis, therefore, it must be true, right? According to TIME, it’s also slang for money and beard. Perhaps because it’s fuzzy and green?
Some think that the term alligator cigarette originated because alligators are slow and green, and cannabis is green and makes you slow. Cigarette is an obvious nod to a joint or marijuana cigarette.
Amnesia is a possibly derogatory term for cannabis because the drug can affect your memory — especially when overused or abused.
Some think the word ‘ashes’ refers to the actual ashes that a joint or blunt produce (and ultimately reduces down to) after it’s smoked.
Asparagus refers to the color of cannabis and the shape of a joint. Both asparagus and cannabis are green; in joint form, cannabis is long and skinny (though an asparagus-sized joint would just be too much).
According to Urban Dictionary, ‘atshitshi’ is street slang for marijuana. Where does the word come from? Heck if we’d know…
Aunt Mary is another slang term that was derived from “Mary Jane.” As mentioned above, it was used during the colonization of Latin America to hide cannabis use from the European settlers. The name “Mary” refers to the Virgin Mary.
Baby is a term of endearment for cannabis. Just as you would call your boyfriend, girlfriend, husband or wife baby, you can use the term to declare your love for cannabis.
Bhang is an Indian drink that consists of milk, spices and cannabis. It’s also referred to simply as ‘bhang.’ The baby is possibly the combination of the endearing term for cannabis with the drink. You can also find bhang lassis in India during the Hindu festival of Holi.
Bag of Bones
If you have many joints with you, no longer is it just one joint — it’s a bag of bones, get it? This term also refers to the way that joints sort of look like little finger bones.
Like many of the words on this list, ‘bammy’ refers to the quality of the marijuana. If you have low-quality cannabis, you have yourself a bammy.
TGFUD (or thank god for Urban Dictionary). It was originally used as a codeword for cannabis — mostly in public or in the presence of parents. Sometimes the word “green blankets” is used in place of just blankets.
A blunt is a way to smoke marijuana, typically in a cigar wrapper. The term blunt refers to the cigar brand Phillies Blunt. While there are dozens of cigar brands these days, the term just stuck.
Bo-bo shouldn’t be confused with bobo (which means crack). The direct translation of bo-bo means “fool.” Yet someone who is a bobo is a highly educated person. Confused? Yep, we thought so.
Bomber is a joint that has way too much cannabis-per paper ratio. This generally happens when you can’t get yourself an extra-wide rolling paper — and instead use a regular one for the job.
Boom could possibly refer to the way you feel when you indulge in too much cannabis. Or, it could refer to the positive version of boom, such as, “I like that boom boom yeah.”
Broccoli (like cabbage, asparagus and many other veggies on this list) is green — just like cannabis. Hey, we didn’t say all of these were brilliant, right?
The bud refers to the part of the cannabis plant that contains the highest levels of TCH (and thus the part that is consumed). Bud is also a love letter phrase for cannabis that falls under the “good words” category for the plant. It lends its name to half of the phrase “kind bud.”
This word refers to cannabis that is poor quality. It could refer to a cabbage patch or an unlikeable vegetable. Like many of the words on this list, cabbages are green (like cannabis).
Catnip specifically refers to cannabis that isn’t real. Like when you “borrow” some of your older sister’s cannabis and replace it with catnip to throw her off your scent. It also refers to cannabis that is low quality — so low that it wouldn’t even affect your cat.
Like with other slang on this list, cheeba doesn’t mean cannabis — it means heroin. Yet, those not in the know often confuse the terms for heroin and cannabis — though the drugs share little in common.
Christmas tree is a slightly more lovable term for cannabis — though it has some negative undertones. You might also hear the terms ‘fir’ and ‘lumber’ being thrown around in place of Christmas tree. Essentially, it’s cannabis that’s a little extra twiggy.
Yes, you’re probably familiar with this term if you went to college in the early 2000s (right when Dr. Dre and Eminem were getting pretty popular?). It means cannabis that is very strong.
Similar to ‘airplane,’ climbing can get you to a higher place. You’ll also notice that in addition to the color green, alliteration is a common thread in many of these terms. Some think that climb might also refer to the psychedelic effects of cannabis — and that you might start to feel like you’re climbing stuff.
Really good cannabis that will leave you “crippled” for a long time.
This one is similar to ‘kind bud’ and ‘bud.’ It supposedly surfaced in Hawaii and within the Hawaii surfing culture. It’s another cozy-feely term for cannabis.
Yes, dank might seem like it’s a “bad” word for cannabis — or that it’s describing a strain of cannabis that’s not so good. Yet, the Swedish word actually means sticky and moist. In case you missed it in the section labeled “Good and Bad Cannabis Synonyms,” those are actually really good words to describe the ideal conditions for cannabis.
This term might come from the word ‘dingle weed,’ which is someone who is not so smart. The term ‘ding’ was probably only used because of the ‘weed’ accounts for the second part of the phrase. It was possibly a term to hide what the user was doing.
A dinke dow is a joint that hasn’t been rolled properly (i.e., that joint is something of a dinkie dow, isn’t it? Should we just make a new one?). This term can be used for cannabis or a tobacco-only cigarette. The term might have come from American troops stationed in Saigon.
Dona Juanita translates to “Lady Jane” in Spanish. It’s a play of words — referring to “Mary Jane.” You see how the language gets more beautiful as the words evolve?
No, it’s not the brothers (though, the Doobie Brothers did get their name from cannabis. Evidently, the band’s roommate suggested they name themselves “The Doobie Brothers” because they were always smoking). Doobie might actually be a “negative” slang term for cannabis. Like you’re a doobie if you’re a cannabis smoker. Luckily, the Doobie Brothers brought the term full-circle.
Dope is a misnomer for cannabis. It’s actually a slang word for heroin. Yet, many non-users started calling cannabis “dope” anyway. If you hear someone say, “You’re not out, smoking dope, are you?” It probably means they’re not cannabis users.
Flower is a reference to the bud of the cannabis plant. This is the part of the plant with the highest levels of THC (the stuff that makes you feel good).
This is another popular term that you might have come across (even if you’re not a cannabis aficionado). It simply means hemp plant in Hindi. You’ll see a few other words on this list that are very similar to this one (and may or may not be derivatives).
Gasper could refer to the way you feel after taking a hit from a bong. The bong makes you “gasp” for air, which opens up your lungs to allow more cannabis in.
Butt refers to a cigarette (“can I get a butt man?”) while ‘good’ refers to how you feel when you smoke cannabis.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever gotten the giggles after taking cannabis. Us too. Yes, this is another endearing term for cannabis. It simply means that it gives you the “good” giggles. Not sure what types of giggles are considered “bad.”
Similar to ‘good giggles,’ giggle smoke is what happens when you smoke (and thus get the giggles from smoking cannabis).
Another plant name, grass simply refers to the fact that cannabis is a plant — and its physical characteristics. It could also refer to the term ‘weed.’ Once weed became overused, grass may have been a bit of a play on the previous phrase.
If you haven’t caught on to the reference to the color green on this list, you might want to do a reread of the entire thing. Yes, green refers to the color of cannabis. It could also refer to money — as the cannabis market does make a lot of it. Other “green” words not on this list (because, you know: brevity) include greenery, green tea, greens, etc.
Last reference to green! Just kidding. As you know, cannabis is green. The goddess refers to the feeling you get when you’ve ingested it. It could also be another “love letter” phrase that people who adore cannabis use to declare their devotion to the plant.
Hash actually refers to ‘hashish’ — a resin from the cannabis plant. The word itself simply means ‘grass’ — another nod to the fact that cannabis is a green plant.
Cannabis is often used in place of herbs in foods and natural medicines. Like herbs, cannabis has certain properties that can possibly reduce inflammation, ease anxiety and even lull you to sleep. It’s often used in teas, too.
You might get the feeling that you’re a bit of a Houdini when you partake in cannabis — because you can let your mind escape just about any situation.
Jay refers to a joint. Many cannabis users simply mean ‘J’ when they call a joint a Jay. Yet since we’re getting all poetic and clandestine here, the slang term morphed into the animal, jay. Again, possibly another nod to cannabis’s psychedelic powers.
OK, now this is the last reference to the color green. For real. Yes, cannabis is green. Yes, you are jolly while you’re partaking in it (hopefully). Yes, the Jolly Green Giant is a beloved spokesperson for vegetables.
Smoking cannabis is often known to bring you joy. Is the joy in the smoke or the feeling you get when you smoke it? You tell us.
Similar to ‘joy smoke,’ joy stick refers to the joy you get when you partake in cannabis. The stick probably refers to the joint or the blunt from which you smoke it. Yes, the whole thing is a play on the video game controller.
See: all the noise in this article before we got to the synonym list. If you happened to scan right on through, especially check out: “Cannabis Vs. Marijuana.”
No, it’s not a Harry Potter reference! Though we wouldn’t be surprised if there were some cannabis strains named after the famous wizard. This term comes from the 1920s, so its origins cannot be confirmed nor denied.
This is one of our favorites. Yes, the term refers to President Nixon. It’s a word that describes cannabis product that’s low quality — but it’s packaged as high quality. Artists, man. Am I right?
This is a famous strain of cannabis that you might have heard of. It was popularized in the Seth Rogan movie, “Pineapple Express.” While this specific strain was harder to come by back in the day (or at least it was in the plot of the movie), it’s not considered highly sought after any longer.
While the exact origin of the word ‘pot’ is ultimately unknown, we can guess that it probably came from the word Potiguaya. It’s one of the most well-known and beloved words for cannabis out there.
Rainy Day Woman
This term refers to the love one has for cannabis on a rainy day. What do you do when there’s nothing better to do? A little bit of cannabis. Truth be told, it’s also a reference to the Bob Dylan song.
According to TIME, reefer is, “a Spanish derived word. ‘Grifo’ is Mexican slang to describe someone under the influence of marijuana, because ‘grifo’ can refer to tangled, frizzy hair and therefore a similar mental state. That became ‘greefo,’ which then became abbreviated as reefer.”
Roach refers to the part of a joint or a blunt that burns down. It’s the last little bit that’s left after the rest of the joint or blunt has been smoked. A cannabis accessory is called a “roach clip” that holds the burning surface — so you don’t burn your fingers.
Weed that has gone bad is referred to as “skunk” because it smells — well, like skunk. This term also refers to beer or wine that has gone bad or spoiled from poor storage conditions.
To splificate is to confuse another person. This is a portmanteau word derived from suffocate and stifle. You might feel a little confused when you partake in cannabis.
A stogie is another word that didn’t originate simply because of cannabis. It’s a common term for a cigar — specifically a very large cigar. The term was eventually used by blunt smokers as well.
Texas tea refers to a strain of cannabis from Texas. It’s also a nod to the sweet tea drank in the South.
THC is often a blanket term used for cannabis products. It stands for Tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychedelic substance found in cannabis. Without THC (or the activation of THC using heat), cannabis would have no psychedelic effect on the user.
The first letter of the word marijuana is ‘M.” M is the thirteenth letter in the alphabet. Guys, we may have just cracked the DaVinci Code.
Weed is simply another term for cannabis because it’s a green plant. It also refers to the disdain politicians have for cannabis. It isn’t wanted and grows too easily.
Check out the Cannabis Dictionary: The Whole Jargon here.
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