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What Is a Teetotaler? Teetotaler Definition

By
Matthew Krimmel
Table of Contents
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A teetotaler is a person who never drinks alcohol. At restaurants, teetotalers either abstain from drinking or only drink non-alcoholic beverages. It might include water, juice, coffee, tea, non-alcoholic soft drinks, mocktails, and non-alcoholic beer.

The practice of avoiding alcohol consumption is called teetotalism.

Why does a person decide to be a teetotaler? Read on to learn about the origin, etymology, and reasons for abstaining from alcohol.

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Origin of Teetotaling

The teetotalism movement began in Preston, England, in the early 19th century.

Joseph Livesey established the Preston Temperance Society in 1833 and later became one of the leaders of the temperance movement. He wrote The Pledge, which states:

"We agree to abstain from all liquors of an intoxicating quality whether ale, port, wine, or ardent spirits, except as medicine.

Etymology

An American source first recorded the word "teetotal" in a general sense in 1832. The next year, an English source cited it in the context of abstinence. A reinterpretation of temperance total may have contributed to its linguistic origin and development.

As early as 1827, some members of Temperance Societies reportedly signed a "T" after their name to signify their commitment to temperance.

Richard Turner, a member of the Preston Temperance Society, received credit for using the slang word "teetotally." He used it to describe abstinence from all existing alcoholic drinks.

According to historian Daniel Walker Howe, the word came from Lyman Beecher, an American preacher and temperance advocate.

Beecher wrote down the names of people at his meetings. He wrote a "T" next to attendees who pledged alcoholic temperance.

The people at these meetings became known as teetotalers.

Why Does a Person Become a Teetotaler?

There are numerous reasons why a person might choose to become a teetotaler. They can include health and medical concerns, family or social influences, philosophical or political ideologies, past alcoholism, and religious beliefs.

Whether in a public setting, such as a restaurant or party, or spending an evening at home, teetotalers choose to refrain from drinking alcohol.

Teetotaler organizations usually demand that their members not produce or promote alcoholic beverages as part of their commitment.

Health

Some people choose to avoid alcohol because they depended on it in the past, and now they're in recovery. It's necessary for a recovering alcoholic to avoid alcohol, even if it means staying out of bars and pubs.

Others don't like the taste of alcohol or have had negative experiences with alcohol.

Certain people stop drinking because they want to improve their physical and mental health.

Religious Beliefs

People's religious beliefs may influence their decision to be teetotal.

However, some organized religions allow their followers to consume alcohol and even include it in formal services.

Alcohol Abstinence

Alcohol abstinence is a main tenant of several religions.

One of the five precepts of Buddhism is remaining free of intoxicating substances that disturb the peace and self-control of the mind. It's formulated as a training rule assumed voluntarily rather than a commandment.

"Khamr" is the word for all intoxicants that Islam prohibits, and Hinduism and Sikhism also require abstinence from alcohol.

Many Christian groups, including Methodists and Quakers, have traditionally supported the temperance movement and prohibition. It has connected these religious faiths to teetotalism.

Numerous Christian denominations forbid the consumption of alcoholic beverages. It includes the New Order Amish, Christian Scientists, Latter-Day Saints, Seventh Day Adventists, and Mennonites.

Religious Acceptance

Many religious denominations denounce the consumption of alcohol. However, the word "wine" and associated terms appear in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.

It describes wine consumed by God's people, including the first noted miracle by Jesus. In the New Testament (John 2:1-11), Christ turned water into wine at a wedding.

The Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Lutheran Churches, and Anglican Communion all include wine in their rite of the Eucharist (Holy Communion).

By contrast, Methodist Churches use "pure, unfermented juices of the grape" in their tradition of the Eucharist.

The Temperance Movement

The temperance movement is a social effort that opposes the consumption of alcoholic beverages.

Participants in the movement criticize alcohol intoxication and promote the benefits of teetotalism. The movement's leaders emphasize alcohol's impacts on family life, health, and people's personalities.

During the 19th and 20th centuries, the temperance movement gained recognition in numerous countries.

It lobbied for national prohibition laws in Canada (1918-1920), Norway (only liquor from 1919-1926), the United States (1920-1933), and India (prohibition in certain provinces since 1948).

The temperance movement still exists in many parts of the world but has less political influence than in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Famous Teetotalers

You may have some family members, friends, and colleagues who don't drink alcohol. In fact, there are numerous famous teetotalers in the business and entertainment worlds.

Here's a list of teetotalers by profession:

Business and Politics

  • Joe Biden, 46th President of the United States
  • Warren Buffett, business magnate and investor
  • Larry Ellison, co-founder and CEO of Oracle
  • Steve Jobs, founder of Apple
  • Yoshihide Suga, former Prime Minister of Japan
  • Donald Trump, 45th President of the United States

Film, Television, and Theater

  • Jason Bateman, American actor
  • Kate Beckinsale, English actress and model
  • Gerard Butler, Scottish actor and film producer
  • Craig Ferguson, Scottish-American television host
  • Anthony Hopkins, Welsh actor
  • Ewan McGregor, Scottish-American actor
  • Daniel Radcliffe, English actor

Music

  • Badshah, highest-earning rapper in India
  • Jennifer Lopez, American actress and singer
  • Gene Simmons, bass player for the rock band KISS
  • Angus Young, Australian guitarist for the rock band AC/DC

Sports

  • Gareth Bale, Welsh footballer
  • Joel Embiid, Cameroonian basketball player
  • Bryce Harper, American baseball player
  • Harry Kane, English footballer
  • Floyd Mayweather Jr., American boxer
  • Christiano Ronaldo, Portuguese footballer
  • Mohamed Salah, Egyptian footballer
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Alcohol Moderation

The decision to abstain from alcohol provides benefits for the people who choose to do so.

For those of us who enjoy an alcoholic beverage, it's best to keep in mind that most activities in moderation aren't harmful. This includes heading out to a restaurant or bar for a night of drinking.

It's best to drink responsibly and moderate your pace of drinking. If not, you might be faced with the decision about whether to join the list of teetotalers for your own benefit.

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