(Redirected from Teetotaler)

Teetotalism is the practice or promotion of total personal abstinence from alcoholic beverages. A person who practices (and possibly advocates) teetotalism is called a teetotaler (British spelling teetotaller) or is simply said to be teetotal. The teetotalism movement was first started in Preston, England, in the early 19th century.[1] The Preston Temperance Society was founded in 1833 by Joseph Livesey, who was to become a leader of the temperance movement and the author of The Pledge: "We agree to abstain from all liquors of an intoxicating quality whether ale, porter, wine or ardent spirits, except as medicine."[2] Today, a number of temperance organizations exist that promote teetotalism as a virtue.[3]

The Drunkard's Progress, a lithograph by Nathaniel Currier supporting the temperance movement (January 1846)
An allegorical map on temperance, accompanied by a lengthy poem. The "Religion Channel" was a strong current away from "Misery Regions" and the "Reprobate Empire", 1846
Share of population who reportedly have never drunk alcohol


According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the tee- in teetotal is the letter T, so it is actually t-total, though it was never spelled that way.[4] The word is first recorded in 1832 in a general sense in an American source, and in 1833 in England in the context of abstinence. Since at first it was used in other contexts as an emphasised form of total, the tee- is presumably a reduplication of the first letter of total, much as contemporary idiom today might say "total with a capital T".[5] Possibly a reinterpretation to mean temperance total influenced the semantic development; it is said that as early as 1827 in some Temperance Societies signing a "T" after one's name had signified one's pledge to temperance.

Richard Turner, a member of the society Preston Temperance Society, is credited with using the existing slang word, "teetotally", for abstinence from all intoxicating liquors.[5] One anecdote describes a meeting of the society in 1833, at which Turner in giving a speech said, "I'll be reet down out-and-out t-t-total for ever and ever."[2][6] Walter William Skeat noted that the Turner anecdote had been recorded by temperance advocate Joseph Livesey, and posited that the term may have been inspired by the teetotum;[7] however, James B. Greenough stated that "nobody ever thought teetotum and teetotaler were etymologically connected."[8]

A variation on the above account is found on the pages of The Charleston Observer:

Teetotalers.—The origin of this convenient word, (as convenient almost, although not so general in its application as loafer,) is, we imagine, known but to few who use it. It originated, as we learn from the Landmark, with a man named Turner, a member of the Preston Temperance Society, who, having an impediment of speech, in addressing a meeting remarked, that partial abstinence from intoxicating liquors would not do; they must insist upon tee-tee-(stammering) tee total abstinence. Hence total abstainers have been called teetotalers.[9]

According to historian Daniel Walker Howe (What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815–1848, 2007) the term was derived from the practice of American preacher and temperance advocate Lyman Beecher. He would take names at his meetings of people who pledged alcoholic temperance and noted those who pledged total abstinence with a T. Such persons became known as Teetotallers.


Some common reasons for choosing teetotalism are psychological, religious, health,[10] medical, familial, philosophical, social, political, past alcoholism, or sometimes it is simply a matter of taste or preference. When at drinking establishments, teetotalers (or teetotallers) either abstain from drinking totally, or consume non-alcoholic beverages such as water, juice, tea, coffee, non-alcoholic soft drinks, virgin drinks, mocktails, and alcohol-free beer.

Most teetotaler organizations also demand from their members that they do not promote or produce alcoholic intoxicants.[11][12]


Abstention from alcohol is a tenet of a number of religious faiths, such as Hinduism; the Swaminarayans; Sikhism; Baháʼís; Jains; and Meivazhi-ites.

"Khamr" is the term for all intoxicants which are prohibited in Islam. (See Religion and alcohol § Islam)

Similarly, one of the five precepts of Buddhism is abstaining from intoxicating substances that disturb the peace and self-control of the mind, but it is formulated as a training rule to be assumed voluntarily rather than as a commandment.

Many Christian groups, such as Methodists and Quakers, are often associated with teetotalism due to their traditionally strong support for temperance movements, as well as prohibition. And a number of Christian denominations forbid the consumption of alcohol, or recommend the non-consumption thereof, including the New Order Amish, Latter-Day Saints, Seventh-day Adventists, Mennonites (both Old Order and Conservative), Church of the Brethren members, and Christian Scientists. Many members of these religious groups are also required to refrain from selling such products. A free translation of the New Testament, the Purified Translation of the Bible (2000), translates in a way that promotes teetotalism. However, the term 'wine' (and similar terms) being consumed by God's people occurs over two hundred times in both the Old and New Testament.

With respect to Methodism, the Church of the Nazarene and Wesleyan Methodist Church, both denominations in the Wesleyan-Arminian tradition, teach abstinence from alcohol.[13][14] Members of denominations in the conservative holiness movement, such as the Allegheny Wesleyan Methodist Connection and Evangelical Wesleyan Church, practice temperance and teetotalism, thus abstaining from alcohol and other drugs.[15] The Book of Discipline of the Immanuel Missionary Church, a Methodist denomination, states:[16]

Temperance is the moderate use of that which is beneficial, and a total abstinence from that which is harmful. Therefore no member shall be permitted to use or sell intoxicating liquors, tobacco, or harmful drugs, or to be guilty of things which are only for the gratification of the depraved appetite, and are unbecoming and inconsistent with our Christian profession (I Cor. 10:31). —General Standards, Immanuel Missionary Church[16]

Uniformed members of the Salvation Army ("soldiers" and "officers") make a promise on joining the movement to observe lifelong abstinence from alcohol. This dates back to the early years of the organisation, and the missionary work among alcoholics.

Conservative Anabaptist denominations, such as the Dunkard Brethren Church, teach:[17]

Members of the Dunkard Brethren Church shall abstain from the use of intoxicating or addictive substances, such as narcotics, nicotine, marijuana, or alcoholic beverages (except as directed by a physician). Using, raising, manufacturing, buying or selling them by Christians is inconsistent with the Christian lifestyle and testimony. Members of the Dunkard Brethren Church who do so should be counseled in love and forbearance. If they manifest an unwilling or arbitrary spirit, they subject themselves to the discipline of the church, even to expulsion in extreme cases. We implore members to accept the advice and counsel of the church and abstain from all of the above. Since members are to be examples to the world (Romans 14:20-21) indulgence in any of these activities disqualifies then for Church or Sunday School work or as delegates to District or General Conference.[17]

With respect to Restorationist Christianity, members of certain groups within the Pentecostal, Adventism, and Latter Day Saint movements abstain from the consumption of alcohol.

Eastern Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the Lutheran Churches, Oriental Orthodox Churches, and the Anglican Communion all require wine in their central religious rite of the Eucharist (Holy Communion). Churches in the Methodist tradition require that "pure, unfermented juice of the grape" be used in the sacrament of Holy Communion.[18] (See Christianity and alcohol.)

In the Gospel of Luke, the angel (Luke 1:15) that announces the birth of John the Baptist foretells that "he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb".

Some Christians choose to practice teetotalism throughout the Lent season, thus giving up alcoholic beverages as their Lenten sacrifice.[19][20]

Research on non-drinkersEdit

Dominic Conroy and Richard de Visser published research in Psychology and Health which studied strategies used by college students who would like to resist peer pressure to drink alcohol in social settings. The research hinted that students are less likely to give in to peer pressure if they have strong friendships and make a decision not to drink before social interactions.[21]

A 2015 study by the Office for National Statistics showed that young Britons were more likely to be teetotalers than their parents.[22]

According to Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health, published by WHO in 2011, close to half of the world’s adult population (45 per cent) are lifetime abstainers. The Eastern Mediterranean Region, consisting of the Muslim countries in the Middle East and North Africa, is by far the lowest alcohol consuming region in the world, both in terms of total adult per capita consumption and prevalence of non-drinkers, i.e. 87.8 percent lifetime abstainers.[23]

Notable teetotalersEdit

The following is an alphabetical list of notable people who are now or were teetotalers during their lifetime. Some have abstained their entire lives, and others only became abstainers after a period of alcohol use.







Science and explorationEdit


Theatre, film and televisionEdit

See alsoEdit


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External linksEdit

  •   The dictionary definition of teetotal at Wiktionary