Where does the Term ‘Weed’ Come From?

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Legal marijuana, both medical and recreational, have been in the news a lot lately.

Most news media and web outlets refer to it as “Weed”, do you ever wonder why that became the go-to slang for marijuana?

If so, you’re in luck, because Slate Magazine just did an entire expose on the vernacular history of the term “Weed”.

The data image below comes from Google’s Ngram Viewer, which shows relative frequency in American printed sources.  As you can see, “weed” really takes off starting in the mid 90’s.


Why the recent weed dominance? It seems clear to me that it’s a generational thing. In the 1990s, a new generation of users wanted to distance themselves from their parents’ dope or pot (the latter dates from the 1930s and apparently originated in African-American slang). Weed was already in the lexicon, and provided a nice implicit variation on the hippie-ish grass.Ben Yagoda – Slate Magazine

I guess I’m kind of a dork for this stuff, but I find these social applications and behaviors to be so interesting.  So I did a little modern media sluthing of my own and saw these Google search trends from 2004-2014:


blue=smoking weed, red=smoking dope, yellow=smoking pot, green=smoking grass, purple=smoking marijuana

Although this search data only goes back 10 years, simlar trends seem to exist between printed word and human search habits.

Have these trends been something you see in you life or profession?  Is there another term that I missed here that you think may be the “weed” of the future? Let me know in the comments below.