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Intoxicated vs. Inebriated: What's the Difference?

By Harlon Moss & Janet White || Updated on May 24, 2024
Intoxicated and inebriated both describe a state of being under the influence of alcohol or drugs, with intoxicated being the more commonly used term.

Key Differences

Intoxicated refers to the condition of being under the influence of alcohol or drugs, resulting in impaired physical and mental abilities. Inebriated, on the other hand, specifically refers to being drunk from consuming alcohol. It is a more formal or literary term compared to intoxicated.
Intoxicated is a broader term that can apply to any substance-induced impairment, whereas inebriated is specifically related to alcohol-induced drunkenness.
Intoxicated is often used in legal contexts to describe individuals impaired by substances, whereas inebriated is less commonly used in legal terminology but might be found in literary or formal writings.
Both terms indicate a loss of control or impairment, but intoxicated is more versatile in its application, covering various substances, while inebriated is more narrowly focused on alcohol.
In daily conversation, intoxicated is more frequently used due to its broader application and familiarity, whereas inebriated might be chosen for a more formal or descriptive emphasis on alcohol consumption.

Comparison Chart


Impaired by alcohol or drugs
Drunk from consuming alcohol

Usage Context

Legal, medical, everyday
Formal, literary

Substance Impairment

Alcohol and drugs
Specifically alcohol


More commonly used
Less commonly used

Legal Terminology

Frequently used in legal contexts
Rarely used in legal contexts

Intoxicated and Inebriated Definitions


Legally defined state of impaired faculties.
The law prohibits driving while intoxicated.


Experiencing the effects of alcohol consumption.
The inebriated guests sang loudly and danced.


Impaired by the consumption of alcohol or drugs.
The driver was arrested for being intoxicated.


Condition of impaired faculties due to alcohol.
The inebriated man struggled to find his way home.


Experiencing diminished physical and mental control due to substances.
She felt dizzy and intoxicated after taking the medication.


More formal term for being drunk.
The novel described the character as inebriated and stumbling.


Affected by any mind-altering substance.
The festival-goers were intoxicated by various substances.


Drunk from consuming alcohol.
He became inebriated after drinking several beers.


Can refer to extreme excitement or elation.
He was intoxicated by the thrill of the victory.


Often used in literary or descriptive contexts.
The old sailor was frequently inebriated, telling tales of the sea.


Physically or mentally impaired by a chemical substance, especially alcohol
Was arrested for driving while intoxicated.
An intoxicated guest at the party.


Intoxicated with alcohol; drunk
The inebriated partygoers were very loud.


Stupefied by alcohol, drunk.


Behaving as though affected by alcohol including exhilaration, and a dumbed or stupefied manner.


Stupefied by any chemical substance.


Simple past tense and past participle of inebriate


Simple past tense and past participle of intoxicate


Under the influence of alcohol; intoxicated; drunk.


Stupefied or excited by a chemical substance (especially alcohol);
A noisy crowd of intoxicated sailors
Helplessly inebriated


Stupefied or excited by a chemical substance (especially alcohol);
A noisy crowd of intoxicated sailors
Helplessly inebriated


As if under the influence of alcohol;
Felt intoxicated by her success
Drunk with excitement


What does inebriated mean?

Inebriated specifically means being drunk from consuming alcohol.

Can intoxicated refer to drugs as well as alcohol?

Yes, intoxicated can refer to impairment by both alcohol and drugs.

Which term is more common in everyday language?

Intoxicated is more common in everyday language.

Is inebriated used for substances other than alcohol?

No, inebriated is typically used to describe alcohol-induced drunkenness.

Can intoxicated mean extremely excited?

Yes, intoxicated can also refer to extreme excitement or elation.

What does intoxicated mean?

Intoxicated means being impaired by alcohol or drugs, resulting in diminished physical and mental control.

Would inebriated be used in medical reports?

Less commonly; intoxicated is more likely used in medical reports.

Is intoxicated used in legal contexts?

Yes, intoxicated is frequently used in legal contexts.

Is intoxicated more versatile than inebriated?

Yes, intoxicated is more versatile as it covers both alcohol and drug impairment.

Is inebriated found in legal documents?

Rarely, intoxicated is more commonly used in legal documents.

Does inebriated have a broader meaning like intoxicated?

No, inebriated is specifically related to alcohol consumption.

Can both terms be used interchangeably?

In some contexts, yes, but intoxicated is broader while inebriated is specific to alcohol.

Which term is more likely to be used in novels?

Inebriated is more likely to be used in novels due to its formal tone.

Is inebriated a formal term?

Yes, inebriated is considered more formal and is often used in literary contexts.

Is one term considered more serious than the other?

Not necessarily; the seriousness depends on context rather than the term itself.

Is inebriated perceived as old-fashioned?

It can be perceived as more formal or literary rather than old-fashioned.

How is intoxicated used in medical contexts?

Intoxicated is used to describe patients impaired by substances affecting their health.

Is intoxicated used in traffic laws?

Yes, many traffic laws refer to driving while intoxicated.

Which term is more descriptive of alcohol consumption?

Inebriated is more specifically descriptive of alcohol consumption.

Is intoxicated a neutral term?

Yes, it is neutral and widely used across different contexts.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Co-written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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