If you’re not Irish, or if you’re Irish and live under a rock, you may not have heard of the glorious bottle of booze that is the naggin. Let me enlighten you.

Naggin
A naggin

A naggin is a a small bottle of spirits, usually unique to Ireland, that is 200ml in size. The next size up is a shoulder or daddy naggin (350ml), which is probably more commonly known as a half bottle in other countries. The naggin is hip flask shaped, which makes it quite handy to slip into your pocket and have it with you at all times, if you’re that way inclined. It also makes it handy to sneak into concerts. At this point I would like to encourage you to please drink responsibly.

But where does this word come from and what does it mean? Naggin, from what I can tell, is an anglicised version of the Irish word naigín, which is Irish for the English word noggin. So noggin became naigín in Irish and when naigín was spoken in English, it became naggin. Clear as mud. It also has a Scot’s gaelic translation — noigean, but I don’t think it has any usage in Scotland. So what does the word noggin mean, aside from a slang word for head (as in banging your noggin on something)? The word noggin originates in the 17th century and can either mean a small cup or a small amount of spirits. In terms of spirits, a noggin is thought to have been equivalent to 1 gill (¼ pint). So, naggin, noggin & gill (pronounced Jill) are all words that mean the same thing.

Whiskey Noggin
A whiskey noggin

If you have a few quid to spare and want something fancy to put your whiskey in, you can buy yourself an antique whiskey noggin. A whiskey noggin was a small glass jug, believed to be of Scottish origin, for holding individual portions of whiskey; almost like a small decanter. When retiring into your drawing room for a game of backgammon, the one gill/naggin capacity (142ml in metric) is just the right amount to take with you to get nicely tipsy! It works out at 4-6 single spirit measures, depending on where you’re from (¼ gill/naggin is the traditional measure in Ireland and Scotland, 15 or 16 in England). So a whiskey noggin was along the same idea as a naggin, except the ‘modern’ naggin is quite a bit bigger and in a slightly less elegant hip flask shaped bottle.

So there you go, the humble naggin goes way back. Nowadays though, somebody decided to round it up to 200ml from ¼ pint (142ml), which makes for 40% more fun but sound 100% less interesting!

Sources of information

The naggin
  • Tony OReilly

    Very interesting and I have learnt something today.

    • Glad I could be of service!

  • Adrian Liddle

    Could the word ‘naggin’ have originated from what Irish wives are supposed to do?

    • An interesting theory, but I’m staying well clear of that minefield!