I was contemplating the German word "Rauch" (smoke or fumes) and the closely related "rauchte" (smoked) and "Rauchen" (smoking). These are related to the English word 'reek', and I wonder if they might also be related to the use of the word "roach" to refer to the butt of a marijuana cigarette.

Any insights?

  • 2
    No. The term roach comes from the cockroach metaphor in the Mexican revolutionary folksong La Cucaracha: La cucaracha, la cucaracha, ya no puede caminar; porque no tiene, porque le falta, marihuana que fumar'. Commented Jan 31, 2018 at 22:28
  • I think any answer should focus on the im-/possibility of roach being a regular by-form of reak. I can't tell from the top of my hat, and it might be totally misguided to require a millenia old heritage for a slang word about a cultural practice which was as far as I know not that old at all. Ido like to compare Rauch with Rohr, by the way, for the latter has no certain etymology and means literally "duct, pipe; reed" (a denominal *rohren would be practicly homophone with v. rauchen in my parts). No word for roach lies nearer than cockroach anyhow...
    – vectory
    Commented Nov 23, 2020 at 15:55
  • and the supposed derivatiin of cigar from cigarro "male cicada", though uncertain, as well as the Spanish avenue for Tobacco into europe in general make it very likely. Very unlikely in contrast is that cock- should have anything to do with tap water plumbing (see cock ~ Ger. Hahn "faucette"), nor with the rooster (as a size category, I say), though I see no etymology for the -racha in cucaracha. German translates Küchen- "kitchen", akin to cook, that would count as folk etymology...
    – vectory
    Commented Nov 23, 2020 at 16:03
  • cigarro could itself be a folk etymology. Likewise, wiktionary notes that the roach in cockroach came under folketymology influence from roach, but they list two or three different entries. Regardless of cucaracha, I figure that for the filter tip end of a roled cigarette, ety 3 of "roach" comes close: "(nautical) An extra curve of material added to the... " (wiktionary).
    – vectory
    Commented Nov 23, 2020 at 16:08

1 Answer 1


The origin of roach in the marijuana sense is not clear, but among the different assumptions there is no reference to German words:

Roach is the short for cockroach on the wrong notion that it was a compond:


  • Meaning "butt of a marijuana cigarette" is first recorded 1938, perhaps from resemblance to the insect, but perhaps a different word entirely.



  • narcotics sense perhaps from earlier roach mane, a horse's mane clipped very short and tied; perhaps from the insect.

(The Dictionary of American Slang)

another possible origin is from Spanish tobacco de cucaracha:

  • In Spanish, tabaco de cucaracha ("roach tobacco") refers to powdery, low-quality tobacco.


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