I'm curious about the origin of the phrase "(Put) one in the wood (for him)" meaning ‘reserve a pint of beer to give him when he arrives’. I live in west Kent, UK and hear this phrase fairly often. This is the only reference I found.

  • Yes, that link does note that the suffix ".. in the wood" is local to Kent. Maybe it's metaphorical, as in "draw a pint, and stick the glass behind the [wooden] bar for when Bob shows up later"?
    – Dan Bron
    Oct 21, 2015 at 11:45

3 Answers 3


"Put one in the wood" is a competitive dart throwing term. The bullseye is made of wood while the outer board target regions are made of other material such as horsehair.

  • Welcome to English Language & Usage, a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts.This site strives to provide objective answers. Take the site tour or have a look at the help center to find out more about good answers. As it stands your answer is purely subjective.
    – Helmar
    Sep 13, 2016 at 8:50

It's usually put one in the barrel...

I asked the landlord for a pint, pointing at Duncan. He pointed at two full ones lined up at Duncan's elbow but agreed to put one in the barrel for him.

Admittedly it's a slightly odd usage, in that the pint of beer is already in the barrel, so reserve might be a better verb than put. I'm from Sussex, and I note OP is in Kent, so perhaps the pint / wood / barrel form is essentially a South East UK usage (but it's probably more widespread).

I don't think there's any reason to look to an "origin" as such. If your friend arrives at the pub after you, you might say "There's a pint in the barrel" (already paid for by you). Americans don't drink pints, but I'm sure if one was eating a slice of pie in a diner he could say "There's a slice behind the counter [for you]" when his friend arrived, and expect to be understood.

Here's a link to sociolinguist Kate Fox in Watching the English (2005) talking about it.

  • 1
    Sure we drink pints. Sure we do. We just don't call them that ;)
    – Dan Bron
    Oct 21, 2015 at 12:11
  • Thank you. I've never heard of "put one in the barrel" myself. But I did think my original phrase "put one in the wood" that often shortened to "one in the wood" may allude to a beer cask. Traditionally they were made of wood. And if "put" could mean "to leave it there" in the cask until it's asked for. Oct 21, 2015 at 12:24
  • @Dan: Brits drink pints of warm beer stored in (wooden) barrels. American drink bottles of cold beer stored in fridges, but I don't think There's a bottle in the fridge [for you] would normally be understood to mean ...paid for by me earlier. On the other hand, I'm pretty sure I've heard behind the counter used with that sense in American movies. Oct 21, 2015 at 12:25
  • @FumbleFingers American bars offer both bottled and draft beer. The draft beer is warm. Outside a Belgian sour, I'm not much one for beer (liquor is quicker!), but my beer snob friends tend to say draft is preferred, if you can get it.
    – Dan Bron
    Oct 21, 2015 at 12:27
  • Most American "draft" beers are infused with nitrogen to facilitate pumping, which makes it very fizzy :( British "real" beer on the other hand is brought up with a hydraulic pump, and is not fizzy but flat. Sometimes in the US you might find a "cask condition" beer that doesn't get nitrogenized, but I've yet to find an American artisan beer in a British style that has the mouthfeel and subtle nutty notes and mild hops of the beer I was served in the rural pubs in Somerset in days of yore.
    – TimR
    Oct 21, 2015 at 13:51

I think "one in the wood" is a Kent/ south east thing.

In Kent you can say I'll have a Stella and "one in the wood" and be understood no problem. Say it elsewhere and you'll get blank stares. But it means you got one behind bar ready when you are. (Bar=wood).

I used to work as a barman when I was around 20 and used to drink in the same pub and used to rack up loads of pints in the wood from people buying drinks for the staff. Got 18 pints in the wood.

  • 1
    This is an interesting answer, but ELU doesn't usually use on-line abbreviations (e.g., u for you); and you've got a couple of misspellings there too (and failure to capitalize). Are the drinks behind the bar actually poured, or just available to be served?
    – Xanne
    May 22, 2017 at 20:22
  • I think the figurative reference is to the wooden beer barrel, not the bar itself. Jan 25, 2021 at 16:51

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