Could anyone please let me know, what do we usually call an individual who never drinks alcohol?

It can be either for health issue, or health care or even some personal barriers like religious beliefs.

PS. I am familiar with the word "teetotalism" which is the practice of total personal abstinence from alcoholic beverages. Also, the notion of "teetotaler" who is a person who practices teetotalism. However, these words sound a little stilted to me. That said, I need a word which is used in everyday speech by ordinary people, or rather it is easily understood by them.

Once, I heard a nonnative used the word "sober" in this sense, but as far as I am concerned, this word is used either for:

1) someone who is not affected by alcohol after drinking it; in other words, the person drank alcohol and after a while when they sober up, they are not drunk anymore.

2) Also, we can simply call someone who has not had alcohol for a while and as they say, they have been on the wagon.

  • Use a phrase: Pat never touches alcohol/hard liquor.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jun 25, 2022 at 13:16
  • I am looking for a single word here not a phrase dear Mari. :) Could you possibly tell me if "sober" works here?
    – A-friend
    Jun 25, 2022 at 13:18
  • 3
    'Sober' in the context of alcohol means 'not drunk' There is nothing stolid or incomprehensible about 'teetotal', and ordinary people use it. Also you hear it shortened to 'TT'. Jun 25, 2022 at 13:26
  • The expression on the wagon is used to describe someone who abstains from alcohol, although it may be only for a time. dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/on-the-wagon Jun 25, 2022 at 15:02
  • @RonaldSole - one may, having boarded the wagon, fall off again. Jun 25, 2022 at 15:11

2 Answers 2


Teetotaller is the noun which is used for such a person, i.e., a person who NEVER drinks alcohol.

Sober is an adjective which means not drunk. It doesn't mean never drunk - it says nothing about drinking habits per se, just that whoever is described as sober is not currently drunk, or appears not to be drunk.

You say that teetotaller sounds stilted, but that isn't the perception of native speakers. It's a fairly common informal word, and probably most native English speakers will know it.

  • I agree, except I think that where there's a choice between the adjective and the noun, the adjective works better. Instead of "He's a teetotaller", I would usually say "He's teetotal".
    – rjpond
    Jun 25, 2022 at 17:35
  • 1
    @rjpond Yes, teetotal is the adjective form. But the OP is asking for the word for "an individual who never drinks alcohol" - which would be a noun.
    – Billy Kerr
    Jun 25, 2022 at 18:01

There are two more possible nouns: abstainer and nephalist.


  1. a person who abstains from something regarded as improper or unhealthy, esp. the drinking of alcoholic beverages



  1. a person who does not drink alcohol

Source: Collin Dictionary

  • 3
    Abstainer is good, but I'm a well-educated native English speaker, and I had never heard the word nephalist before. I don't think anyone would be likely to understand it.
    – stangdon
    Jun 25, 2022 at 14:53

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