Green’s Dictionary of Slang

moonshine n.

[the content of alcoholic moonshine differed as to the county, in Sussex and Kent it referred to white brandy, in Yorks. to gin]

1. nonsense, a trifle, nothing at all; flattery, humbug; also as bag of moonshine, moonshine in the mustard pot.

[UK]J. Taylor in Works (1835) II 126: Labouring for nothings, and preaching all day for shadows and moonshine [F&H].
[UK]J. Ray Proverbs (2nd edn) 76: You shall have moon-shine i’th’ mustard-pot for it. i.e. nothing.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK]J. Poole Hamlet Travestie I ii: So look before you leap; depend upon it, ’Tis all moonshine, in valentine or sonnet.
[UK]J. Thomson An Uncle Too Many I i: Unalterable moonshine!
[US]Owl (NY) 10 July n.p.: Their clamour with respect to ‘Tubs and Firkins’ is all moonshine.
[UK] ‘Terence O’Shaughnessy’ in Bentley’s Misc. Jan. 39: My fears had been moonshine; my suspicions groundless.
[Aus]Sthn Australian (Adelaide) 24 Mar. 2/5: Witness the following specimen [of slang] which we have culled out of his last article [...] rob Peter to pay Paul—fudge—hocus pocus—moonshine.
[US]Commercial Advertiser (N.Y.) 22 Nov. n.p.: The story of the Queen of Spain’s secret marriage to her cousin, appears to have been all moonshine.
N.Y. Pick (NY) 21 Feb. n.p.: It’s all gammon and moonshine [...] not one word of truth.
[UK]R.S. Surtees Ask Mamma 3: The Pringles were ‘a most respectable family,’ mercantile morality being too often a mere matter of moonshine.
[UK]Sportsman 11 Sept. 2/1: Notes on News [...] Among provisions of the Queen’s Regulations [...] is one forbidding any price over regulation being paid by officers for promotion [...] Now practically this is all moonshine [...] this law is broken every day.
[UK]Hotten Sl. Dict.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 21 Feb. 5/4: Of course, under such circumstances, the promise given in March last for a supply of water to these places by means of this tank was mere moonshine, or, rather – to talk by the card – very milk-and-watery.
[UK] ‘’Arry on Woman Rights’ in Punch 2 Apr. 156/1: I’ve bin to a lecture! [...] Woman’s Rights and that moonshine.
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 20 May 5/1: There is great indigantion and talk about taking proceedings [...] This is all moonshine. The College authorities in Oxford are absolute.
[US]‘Mark Twain’ Pudd’nhead Wilson 85: The whole thing is moonshine.
[UK]W. Boyle Eloquent Dempsy (1911) Act I: Oh Jerry, you will be the death of me! Where do you pick up your supplies of moonshine?
[UK]Sporting Times 1 Jan. 3/1–2: As I thought, the stories about a morganatic marriage on the Riviera were all moonshine.
[UK]E. Pound letter 25 Dec. in Read Letters to James Joyce (1968) 227: Hemingway told Joyce Pound’s idea was ‘moonshine’.
[Aus]Townsville Daily Bulletin (Queensland) 1 Dec. n.p.: His propaganda of a seven-hour day in Russia is all moonshine.
[US]Kerouac On the Road (The Orig. Scroll) (2007) 180: I began talking moonshine and roses to the monsieur’s young wife.
[UK]C. Stead Cotters’ England (1980) 260: You’re ready to cling to anyone who’ll feed you the moonshine you want.
[US]R. Coover Public Burning (1979) 110: Hell, all courtroom testimony about the past is ipso facto and teetotaciously a baldface lie, ain’t that so? Moonshine! Chicanery!
[US]J. Ellroy ‘Where I Get My Weird Shit’ in Destination: Morgue! (2004) 29: You take what you need [...] You impose order. You lay on some moonshine. If you’re skillful [...] it all works.

2. in attrib. use of sense 1, insubstantial, worthless.

[UK]Sportsman 11 July 4/1: Notes on News [...] [S]troll down into the City, and with a pocket stuffed out with moonshine securities, go bang up to the heads of confiding directors, and smilingly say, ‘Stand and deliver,’ to the tune of some 200,000l .

3. (also m.s.) illicitly distilled or contraband liquor [fig. use of sense 1 above].

[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue n.p.: The white brandy smuggled on the coasts of Kent and Sussex, is [...] called moonshine.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue (3rd edn) n.p.: The white brandy smuggled on the coasts of Kent and Sussex and the gin in the north of Yorkshire is [...] called moonshine.
[UK]Sporting Mag. Apr. XX 63/2: Ye men of Eastbourne, and the neighbouring shore, / Bewail your loss! Tom Lock — he is no more [...] ’Twas moonshine brought him to this fatal end!
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum [as cit. 1796].
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue [as cit. 1796].
[UK]Satirist (London) 6 May 147/1: Says I, ‘Moll, there’ll be moonshine in plenty, / And a skinfull of porter and gin’.
[UK]Morn. Advertiser (London) 14 July 2/2: Drama, entitled the Drunkard’s Children [...] Mat Moonshine.
[US]Dly Delta (New Orleans, LA) 8 Nov. 1/4: Moonshiners in Danger. The following [...] leaves us in anxiety for the fate of the great moonshine conspirators.
[UK]Hotten Dict. of Modern Sl. etc. (2nd edn).
[US]M. Thompson Hoosier Mosaics 14: Her flesh looked like tinted wax mixed with moonshine, and her eyes was as clear as a limestone spring.
[UK]N&Q 24 May 401: Moonshine signifies smuggled spirits, which were placed in holes or pits and removed at night [F&H].
[US]J. Fox Jr ‘On Hell-Fer-Sartain Creek’ in Hell Fer Sartain and Other Stories n.p.: Then they’d take a pull out’n the same bottle o’ moonshine.
[US]N.Y. Tribune 21 Jan. 6/3: Georgia voted for statewide prohibition last May. Since then the ‘Moonshiners’ of the Blue Ridge Mountains have prospered exceedingly [...] ‘Tolliver’ of the mountain is making ‘moonshine’ while the sun shines.
[US]Sun (NY) 1 June 67/3: Known as ‘bootleggers’ because they originally carried bottles of ‘M.S.’ (moonshine) in their boot-legs.
[US]H.C. Witwer Fighting Blood 366: Rags was drunk, – but with hate, not moonshine.
[US]I. Franklyn Knights of the Cockpit 159: The contents of each had been badly cut or refilled with home-brewed moonshine.
[US]Memphis Minnie ‘Reachin’ Pete’ 🎵 He met me one Sunday morning, just about the break of day / I was drinking my moonshine, he made me throw my knife away.
[US]J.T. Adams Mountain Murder 23: Haynes saw at a glance that Clary was in his usual condition — befogged with moonshine.
[US]A. Anderson ‘Big Boy’ in Lover Man 53: He’d take a drink of moonshine out of one o’ them paper cups they sell coke in.
[US]Mad mag. July 15: By selling his moonshine around the town / he killed off most of the neighbours.
[Ire](con. 1940s) B. Behan Confessions 66: It stands to common reason that the fine old drop of moonshine [...] cannot improve the health.
[US]‘Iceberg Slim’ Airtight Willie and Me 93: I hustled moonshine, bust out craps, been shot, stabbed and poisoned.
F. Deford in Sports Illus. June 🌐 He came back to the gym toting a pint of moonshine.
[UK](con. 1950s–60s) in G. Tremlett Little Legs 57: We’re gonna get some moonshine.
[US]Source Oct. 230: You’ll think you had one too many glasses of moonshine.
[UK]Observer 9 Jan. 17: He joined the Canadians’ communal home, confronted his alcoholism, nurtured by prison moonshine.
[US]J. Stahl I, Fatty 175: Maude, who’d been guzzling moonshine nonstop since arriving, had passed out.
[UK]K. Richards Life 14: There were liquor stores selling what was basically moonshine with brown paper labels [...] Flying Cock, Fighting Cock, the Grey Major.
[US]D.R. Pollock Devil All the Time 68: [He] used to stop in the store once in a while sniffing around for moonshine.
[Scot]I. Welsh Decent Ride 105: Some stuff coming my way [...] It’ll make this taste like hillbilly moonshine!
[Aus]C. Hammer Scrublands [ebook] ‘Moonshine. Make it out the back. Got a still’.
[US]S.A. Crosby Blacktop Wasteland 28: [F]lying down the road moving moonshine.

4. adulterated liquor.

[US](con. 1920s) J.T. Farrell Young Manhood in Studs Lonigan (1936) 320: You tasted bum gin and moonshine for three days.

5. (US) rice.

[US]Great Bend Trib. (KS) 2 July 3/4: Rice has a lot of names, ranging from ‘moonshine’ or ‘swamp seed’ to ‘John Chinaman’’.

In phrases

mouthful of moonshine (n.)


[UK]G. Stevens ‘To-Day & To-Night’ Songs Comic and Satyrical 66: To-morrow’s the wild-goose at which they take aim, / A mouthful of moonshine they get for their game.
[UK]F. Pilon He Would be a Soldier III i: The opinion of the world, Sir! It’s a mouthful of moonshine!
[UK]London Standard 24 Mar. 3/4: By others, as was said on another occasion, ‘a mere mouthful of moonshine.’ Be it so.
[Ire]Freeman’s Jrnl 26 July 4/4: They had gained a moral Waterloo; were they to be fooled out of their victory by a mouthful of moonshine.
[UK]Sherborne Mercury 2 Nov. 4/6: It’s only a mouthful of moonshine yes, pretty cheat, that’s a fact.
[Scot]Dundee Courier 26 June 3/3: He saw it was all a mouthful of moonshine.
[UK]Belfast News Ltr 18 Nov. 2/6: The second, which I term a fraud, we have an attempt to get out of a difficulty by throwing a mouthful of moonshine to the public.
[Ire]Dublin Eve. Mail 15 Jan. 2/1: Let them make up their minds not to be put off with a mouthful of moonshine from the Lord Lieutenant.
[Scot]Fife Herald 16 Mar. 2/5: It seemed to him only a ‘mouthful of moonshine’ (Laughter).
[Ire]Freeman’s Jrnl 9 Mar. 6/3: The honourable member will only treat the Ulster men to ‘a mouthful of moonshine’.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

moonshine darlin’ (n.)

(W.I.) a party to which anyone can come as long as they contribute food or drink. It is held outdoors under the light of the moon.

[WI]T. Murray Folk Songs of Jam. 17: [note] ‘Moonshine Darlins’ are dances held out-of-doors when the moon is full. Anyone can join in the fun, whether invited or not, and refreshments are brought by those participating.