1715, from Gaelic uisge beatha "whisky," lit. "water of life," from O.Ir. uisce "water" + bethu "life." The Gaelic is probably a loan-translation of M.L. aqua vitae, which had been applied to intoxicating drinks since early 14c. (cf. Fr. eau de vie "brandy"). Other early spellings in Eng. include usquebea (1706) and iskie bae (1583). Distinction between Scotch whisky and Irish and American whiskey is a 19c. innovation. Whisky sour is recorded from 1889.