Why Is Marijuana Also Called Pot? Weed. Mary Jane. Chronic. There are dozens of slang synonyms for marijuana. But one of the strangest is the word pot. How did the word for a common kitchen instrument become slang for marijuana? The origin of pot has nothing to do with the culinary tool. The word came into use in America in the late 1930s. It is a shortening of the Spanish potiguaya or potaguaya that came from potación de guaya, a wine or brandy in which marijuana buds have been steeped. It literally means “the drink of grief.” Like pot, the word marijuana refers to cannabis, the hemp plant Cannabis sativa (or Cannabis indica). The plant grows naturally in central Asia and other warm regions. Its uses vary from recreational to medicinal to religious. Marijuana is the dried leaves and female flowers of the hemp plant. The word’s origin dates back to the late nineteenth century. It is an Americanism for the Mexican Spanish marihuana or mariguana, which is associated with the personal name María Juana. Mary Jane, by the way, is the English version of María Juana.