I've been curiously browsing wikipedia today. The word Geneva, besides the city and Canton, is also used to refer to a type of Gin that's made there, and to any other kind of Gin as a generified word.

Based on my "research", gin is named after juniper bushes, which are used in its flavoring.

One might think that there's a casual relationship between the names gin and Geneva, but Wikipedia says that the "Gen" in Geneva comes from a bend in the river in that city.

Is it a coincidence that Geneva sounds similar to gin while also referring to gin?

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    To add to your list of coincidences: In Spanish, the word ginebra refers to both the drink and the city.
    – Manu CJ
    Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 8:23

1 Answer 1


Gin is abbreviation from genever, originally Dutch, where the word means "juniper". The original drink was made from fermented juniper berries in the Netherlands. The word genever (juniper) derives from Latin iūniperus via its French version genevre. Geneva is ultimately from Latin Genāva, with the etymology you pointed, and unrelated to iūniperus.

That said, the similarity between the two words led to people making puns and jokes even in the 17th century, like "reading Geneva print" meaning "to get drunk".

Source: OED.

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    The pun rests on the fact that Geneva was the seat of a (relatively) free press, which published many inflammatory books.
    – fdb
    Commented Jul 9, 2020 at 13:32
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    As I understand things, juniper berries are added to give gin its distinctive flavour, and are not the source of alcohol. That is, juniper berries are not fermented.
    – tomd
    Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 9:04
  • @tomd With modern gin, yes (with the addition of extra herbs, too, in the British style). The original Dutch genever spirit (as described in 1606) was however distilled from fermented berries (as opposed to juniper flavour added later to grain spirits), without herbals. (OED) Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 9:49
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    @tomd "The original Geneva was made in Holland by grinding berries with the malt before fermentation, and fermenting the whole together, by which the spirit was flavoured with the juniper from the beginning" (Thomas Webster, An Encyclopædia of Domestic Economy, 1844) Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 9:54
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    As regards the Webster quote, I agree entirely. But it is the malt, and the malting process, that produces the glucose (grape sugar) that is anaerobically converted by yeast into alcohol (ethanol). The fact that juniper berries are there from the beginning does not change that, but may give rise to distinctive congeners. The same surely applies to the OED quote. AFAIK, juniper berries (strictly speaking a cones) do not contain grape sugar, or any source of glucose, and while they may be present in the fermentation mix, there is always another source of glucose (grapes, for example).
    – tomd
    Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 11:25

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