drunk (adj.)

past participle and former past tense of drink, used as an adjective from mid-14c. in sense "intoxicated, inebriated." In various expressions, such as drunk as a lord (1891), Drunk as a Wheelbarrow (1709); Chaucer has dronke ... as a Mous (c. 1386). Formerly also, of things, "drenched, saturated" (late 14c.).  The noun meaning "drunken person" is from 1852; earlier this would have been a drunkard. Meaning "a spree, a drinking bout" is by 1779.

Medieval folklore distinguished four successive stages of drunkenness, based on the animals they made men resemble: sheep, lion, ape, sow. Drunk driver "intoxicated operator of a vehicle" is attested by 1912 of automobile drivers; from 1898 of horse-drawn vehicles; by 1894 of railroad engineers; drunken driver is older (by 1770). Drunk-tank "jail cell for drunkards" attested by 1912, American English.

updated on December 12, 2018