Informal. smuggled or illicitly distilled liquor, especially corn liquor as illicitly distilled chiefly in rural areas of the southern U.S.
empty or foolish talk, ideas, etc.; nonsense.
the light of the moon; moonlight.

Origin of moonshine

1375–1425; late Middle English: moonlight. See moon, shine1, Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for moonshine

bootleg, firewater, hooch, rotgut

Examples from the Web for moonshine

Contemporary Examples of moonshine

Historical Examples of moonshine

  • Seaward from palace-haunts, in the moonshine glistened and darkened.


    William D. Howells

  • And the bridges are not of iron and concrete, but of rainbows and––moonshine!

    The Book of Khalid

    Ameen Rihani

  • The high road, whitened by the moonshine, stretched far into the distance.

  • It means just moonshine and mush and lookin' into each other's eyes, that's about all.

    The Portygee

    Joseph Crosby Lincoln

  • I don't suppose they have been able to check the making of moonshine—that is, not to any extent?

British Dictionary definitions for moonshine



another word for moonlight (def. 1)
US and Canadian illegally distilled or smuggled whisky or other spirit
foolish talk or thought
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for moonshine

c.1500, "moonlight," from moon (n.) + shine (n.). In figurative use, implying "appearance without substance," from late 15c.; perhaps connected in that sense with notion of "moonshine in water" (cf. moonraker). Meaning "illicit liquor" is attested from 1785 (earliest reference is to that smuggled on the coasts of Kent and Sussex); moonlight also occasionally was used in this sense early 19c. As a verb from 1883. Related: Moonshiner (1860).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper