Skip to content

The various names for Cannabis

Cannabis is known by many names across different cultures and contexts. These names, ranging from the scientific to the colloquial, often reflect the plant’s uses, effects, and cultural significance.

Cannabis: The Scientific Name

The term “Cannabis” is the plant’s official scientific name, used in botanical and scholarly contexts. It originates from Latin and has been used in English since the 18th century. The word likely has older roots in ancient languages like Sanskrit, where it was referred to as “cannabha.”

Marijuana: A Common Name with Complex Origins

“Marijuana” is perhaps the most widely recognized colloquial name for cannabis in the United States. The term’s origin is somewhat disputed. It’s believed to have Mexican Spanish roots, possibly derived from the names “Mary Jane” or “María y Juana.” “Marijuana” became popular in the U.S. in the early 20th century, particularly during the anti-cannabis campaigns of the 1930s.

Hemp: The Industrial Cousin

“Hemp” refers to varieties of the Cannabis plant cultivated for industrial and non-drug uses, such as fiber, oil, and seeds. This name comes from the Old English “henep” or “hænep,” which is used to describe the non-psychoactive strains of Cannabis.

Ganja: A Term from India

“Ganja” is a name for cannabis that comes from Hindi and Sanskrit. In these languages, “ganjha” or “गांजा” (pronounced gaanjaa) refers to the hemp plant. This term is commonly used in the Caribbean and has roots in Indian culture due to the migration of Indian indentured workers in the 19th century.

Weed: A Slang Term

“Weed” is a modern, casual slang term for cannabis. It likely derives from the plant’s ability to grow in various environments, similar to a weed. This term gained popularity in the late 20th century and is widely used in informal settings.

Pot: A Mid-20th Century Name

“Pot” is another colloquial term for cannabis, believed to derive from the Spanish word “potiguaya” or “potación de guaya,” which means a drink of wine or brandy in which cannabis buds have been steeped. It became popular in the United States in the mid-20th century.

Hashish: A Concentrated Form

“Hashish” or “hash” is not a name for the cannabis plant itself but rather for a concentrated resin extracted from the plant. It comes from the Arabic word “ḥashīsh,” which means grass. Hashish has been used for centuries, particularly in the Middle East and Asia.

Historical Use of Cannabis

Cannabis, known for its psychoactive properties and medicinal uses, has a rich history that spans thousands of years and a modern presence that varies greatly across the globe.