Marijuana has many different names, two of the most common being pot and weed.
Not all of the terms used to describe marijuana have particularly obvious origins, with many derived from words in foreign languages that mutated in meaning over time as they bled into English speakers’ vernacular.
The list of terms used to describe marijuana is constantly evolving, as new names are developed and used.
Some of Marijuana’s Many Monikers
A completely comprehensive list of any drug’s monikers is basically impossible to create, as people develop new names quite frequently and not all of these names become very popular, meaning they may only actually get used in isolated pockets around the world. However, the following is a list of some of the most common names for marijuana:
Cannabis & Marijuana
These terms reference the cannabis plant, Cannabis sativa. Marijuana is made by drying the buds produced by this plant.
Notably, there are also cannabis variants that do not produce marijuana. Cannabis can and often is cultivated for non-drug use, notably to produce hemp, a useful plant fiber.
Hashish or Hash
Hashish is a drug made by compressing cannabis buds, which are then smoked or eaten. Many people shorten this term to hash when discussing the drug.
While these terms are sometimes used interchangeably with the term marijuana (and the slang used to refer to marijuana), hashish isn’t exactly the same as other marijuana derivatives. The compression used to create the drug generally results in a more potent product with moderately different properties.
Weed is a term with what appears to be a fairly straightforward origin, derived from the fact marijuana is a plant. While not literally a weed, slang is often imprecise, and the term’s meaning is widely understood.
In fact, weed is probably the most popular slang term for the drug. It may even be more popular than actually calling it marijuana among users.
While one might expect pot to be a term originating from the fact marijuana is a plant and thus might be grown in a plant pot, it actually appears to be a shortening of the Spanish words potiguaya or potaguaya. These refer to a drink made by steeping marijuana buds in wine or brandy.
Pot is probably the second most common slang term for marijuana, behind only weed.
It is not immediately obvious where the slang term chronic comes from, although it notably may be both a reference to chronic drug use and the fact marijuana is sometimes used to help treat chronic pain. It likely also became more popular with the debut release of The Chronic by Dr. Dre, which also features the rapper Snoop Dogg.
This slang term generally refers specifically to high-grade cannabis.
Dope used to be a much more common slang term for marijuana than it is now. It seems to have a somewhat traceable origin over two centuries ago, beginning with the Dutch doop, which refers to a thick dipping sauce.
Eventually, the English variant dope began to be used more broadly, referring to thick liquid in general. This led to people calling a semi-liquid opium preparation dope, which eventually led to the term referring to a wider array of drugs in popular slang.
A dope also started to refer to someone who was foolish, which may also have led to more non-users using the term dope considering the drug’s negative connotations. Notably, dope is now used much more commonly to refer to either heroin or steroids rather than marijuana.
Mary Jane or MJ
Mary Jane or MJ is a moniker that comes from the word marijuana itself (“Mary” for “mari—” and “Jane” for “—juana”). It’s not an especially popular name in day-to-day slang, but it is somewhat frequently used in song lyrics.
Reefer is a term of somewhat uncertain origin, although several sources suggest it may be a mutation of the Mexican Spanish term grifo, which can refer to several different things, one of which being someone who smokes marijuana.
The Devil’s Lettuce
Almost exclusively used jokingly in the modern day, this moniker references the drug’s plantlike nature combined with its reputation as a dangerous drug during the “Reefer Madness” panic of the mid-1930s that continued for decades and arguably somewhat continues even today.
Additional Nicknames for Marijuana
While the above terms are some of the most commonly used, there are many other nicknames and slang terms used to describe marijuana. Here are some of them:
- Aunt Mary
- Barbara Jean
- BC Budd
- Black Gold
- Blue Jeans
- Christmas Tree
- Crazy Weed
- Creeper Bud
- Donna Juana
- Downtown Brown
- Dry High
- Flower Tops
- Fuzzy Lady
- Ganja; Gash
- Giggle Smoke
- Gold Leaf
- Green Goblin
- Green Goddess
- Green Skunk
- Jolly Green
- Joy Smoke
- Kona Gold
- Laughing Grass
- Little Green Friends
- Little Smoke
- Loco Weed
- Magic Smoke
- Mary Jones
- Mexicali Haze
- My Brother
- Northern Lights
- Pink Panther
- Pocket Rocket
- Purple Haze
- Rasta Weed
- Stink Weed
- Train Wreck
- Wake and Bake
- Weed Tea
- Yellow Submarine
Why So Many Names for Weed?
Drug slang is always evolving for both practical and cultural reasons. Many terms originate as a way to discuss a drug without being immediately detected by law enforcement or people who might report illegal activities to the authorities. Others may originate simply as an easier way to refer to a drug or a specific variety of that drug.
Marijuana is a four-syllable word, with longer terms often getting shortened to one-syllable or two-syllable words over time. This just makes it easier to say.
Generationally, terms can evolve as a way of differentiating oneself from the prior generation’s terminology. If a term becomes associated specifically with an older generation, younger people may start to avoid it to appear hip. This seems to be why terms like reefer and dope have fallen out of favor despite once being very popular.
Dope (n.). Online Etymology Dictionary.
How Weed Became the Hippest Slang Term for Marijuana. (March 2014). Slate.
Marijuana Panic Won’t Die, but Reefer Madness Will Live Forever. (April 2020). JSTOR Daily.
Reefer (n.). Online Etymology Dictionary.
Slang Terms and Code Words: A Reference for Law Enforcement Personnel. (July 2018). U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
Why Is Marijuana Also Called Pot? (July 2010). Dictionary.com.
420 Day: Why There Are So Many Different Names for Weed. (April 2017). TIME.