Artist's representation of distillation apparatus for aqua vitae, from Liber de arte Distillandi
, by Hieronymus Brunschwig
Aqua vitae (Latin for "water of life") or aqua vita is an archaic name for a concentrated aqueous solution of ethanol. The term was in wide use during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, although its origin is likely much earlier. This Latin term appears in a wide array of dialectical forms throughout all lands and people conquered by ancient Rome. Generally, the term is a generic name for all types of distillates, and eventually came to refer specifically to distillates of alcoholic beverages (liquors).
Aqua vitae was typically prepared by distilling wine; it was sometimes called "spirits of wine" in English texts, a name for brandy that had been repeatedly distilled.
Aqua vitae was often an etymological source of terms applied to important locally produced distilled spirits. Examples include whisky (from the Gaelic uisce beatha), eau de vie in France, acquavite in Italy, and akvavit in Scandinavia, okowita in Poland, оковита (okovyta) in Ukraine, акавіта (akavita) in Belarus, and яковита (yakovita) in southern Russian dialects.