Where did the term limey come from?

Answered by Robert Flynn

The term “limey” originated from the practice of British sailors consuming lime juice on a daily basis to prevent a condition known as scurvy. Scurvy was a major problem for sailors during long voyages, particularly in the 18th and 19th centuries. It was caused by a deficiency of vitamin C, which led to the degradation of connective tissues throughout the body.

During these voyages, sailors would often be at sea for months on end, with limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables. As a result, they would suffer from the symptoms of scurvy, which included weakness, fatigue, swollen and bleeding gums, joint pain, and even death in severe cases.

However, in the late 18th century, a British doctor named James Lind conducted experiments and discovered that providing sailors with a daily ration of lime juice could effectively prevent scurvy. This revolutionary finding led to the implementation of lime juice as a standard part of British naval rations.

The practice of consuming lime juice as a preventive measure against scurvy quickly spread throughout the British Navy. Sailors were given regular doses of lime juice, typically mixed with water, to ensure they received an adequate supply of vitamin C. This practice proved to be highly successful in combating scurvy and significantly improving the health of sailors.

As a result of this practice, British sailors became known as “limeys” due to their consumption of lime juice. The term was initially used by sailors from other countries, often in a derogatory manner. However, over time, it became more widely accepted and embraced by the British themselves.

The nickname “limey” has since been used to refer to British sailors in general, as well as to British people in a broader sense. It has become a part of maritime and historical folklore, symbolizing the importance of vitamin C in preventing scurvy and the role of lime juice in the British Navy’s efforts to combat this debilitating condition.

The term “limey” originated from British sailors consuming lime juice to prevent scurvy during long voyages. The practice was found to be highly effective, leading to improved health among sailors and the nickname “limey” being associated with British sailors and people in general.