Also found in: Thesaurus.
intr.v. ca·roused, ca·rous·ing, ca·rous·es
To drink large amounts of alcohol, especially in boisterous merrymaking.
[Earlier, a cup drunk up completely in one draft as a toast, from French, carous as in French (boire) carous, (to drink a cup) up completely in one draft, from German gar aus(trinken), (to drink) up completely (used in such exhortations as trinks gar aus, drink it all up) : gar, completely (from Middle High German, from Old High German garo; akin to archaic English yare, ready) + aus, out, up; see auslander.]
Word History: From an etymological point of view, carousing is chugalugging. Carouse ultimately comes from German gar aus, words forming part of the exhortation trinks gar aus, "drink it all up!" with which German revelers urged their drinking companions to drain their cups. The phrase trinks gar aus is repeated, for example, at the end of one of the most popular German drinking songs of the 1500s, So trinken wir alle ("So drink we all"). Gar aus, "completely up," had already spread to French by the middle of the 1500s as carous, also spelled carrousse. This word was used in such phrases as boire carous, "to drink by draining a cup dry in one draft, chug." (The change of the initial German g to c in French carous may reflect a Swiss dialectal pronunciation of g, which may have sounded like c or k to French ears.) French carrousse soon made its way into English as carouse. In the 1500s, English carouse was often used as an adverb in such phrases as to quaff carouse, "to drink dry in one draft," but it could also function as a noun meaning "a cup drunk dry in toasting someone's health." Such drinks were typically tossed back in company, and when done so repeatedly, this soon led to what we now call carousing.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.