Sake has not been around forever, and at one point in time, they had to come up with a name for this new stuff. Hooch, da good stuff, giggly juice . . . It is likely that the Japanese equivalents of these have all been used, but there must have been some point when the word "sake" itself came into being.

The character for sake is said to have come from a picture of a jar. The water radical on the left side indicates that a liquid would be involved. As the character itself came from Chinese, eventually a Japanese reading came to be associated with it.

There are four current theories on the etymology of the word sake itself. One is that sake is taken from sakae-mizu. The key root here is sakaeru, which means to prosper, to flourish or to thrive. Seeing how this might relate is almost a no-brainer; we all seem to flourish and thrive a bit when drinking a glass of good sake or two. The "sakae-mizu" eventually became "sakae" and later "sakei" before becoming truncated into its present version, "sake."