ZYTHOS, Defined

Ζῦθος, -ου

  1. “an Eygptian kind of beer”
  2. “beer of northern nations”*

Latinized: zythum, -i

  1. ”a kind of malt-liquor among the Egyptians”**


Zythos is a Greek word that was first applied to Egyptian beer. The use of the word subsequently came to describe beer more generally. Zythos was applied specifically to barley beer.


This is the first part of an ongoing series: “define a beer-word.” Although it is not the most common word/term for beer in antiquity, zythos maintains a quiet legacy in modern brewing culture. In the endless pursuit to appeal to the hipster throwback culture and remain titular innovators, the brewing Illuminati and cognoscenti have previously used “zythos” to describe craft beers, beer lovers (i.e. zythophile), homebrew recipes, festivals, hops, etc. In English, the word sounds simultaneously exotic and hoity-toity (to be honest: more toity, than hoity) and will assuredly remain in the beer lexicon for many years to come.



*according to Liddell and Scott; **Lewis and Short
Sources: Nelson, M. (2001). Beer in Greco-Roman Antiquity, Ph.D. dissertation, U. of British Columbia, 34-36

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