How did "pissed" come to mean "drunk" or "angry" in expressions such as: "I'm pissed" OR "I'm pissed off"?
All dictionaries I consulted just gave that definition.
So, does it have anything to do - even just figuratively - with "urine" (i.e. the common usage of "piss")?

P.S. Also do the expressions "Piss off!" (meaning "Go away!") & "take the piss [out of someone]" (meaning "make fun of someone") have anything to do - even just figuratively - with "urine"?

If there is a relationship between being pissed or piss off and urine, then what is it?

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    I should probably point out that the "drunk" sense is primarily UK; in the USA, the "angry" sense predominates. No doubt it has something to do with urination, somehow, as does piss off in the imperative (another primarily UK usage; in the USA, the phrasal verb is mostly used in the angry sense, as a participle). – John Lawler Jun 3 '19 at 15:31
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    Of related interest: “Pissed” vs “Pissed off” – choster Jun 3 '19 at 16:04
  • @JohnLawler Also, in the UK - going out on the piss (a night out drinking). My assumption has always been that it has something to do with the resemblance of beer to the colour of urine. But maybe I've got that completely wrong. – WS2 Jun 4 '19 at 20:55

The application of piss or pissed to anger was first documented as an expression just after World War II. In two articles from American Speech in the same year, Fred Eikel, Jr. and Joseph W. Bishop, Jr. each documented the usage.

Here is Eikel, Fred. “An Aggie Vocabulary of Slang.” American Speech, vol. 21, no. 1, 1946, pp. 29–36. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/487347, p. 33.

HE PISSED (or PEED) ME OFF. An expression used of a person who in any way disappointed the speaker.

This usage comes from Texas A&M, which at the time had a major military presence.

Here is Bishop, Joseph W. “American Army Speech in the European Theater.” American Speech, vol. 21, no. 4, 1946, pp. 241–252. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/487320. p.249.

a. Pissed-off (or P'd off). This means, roughly, fed-up, irritated, depressed. I have no idea of its history. The British say browned off and it may be that the Americans who borrowed the phrase simply felt that 'browned' was not strong enough. The superlative is, for some reason, highly pissed off, which may also be a Briticism.

Bishop is an amateur recording slang from his time in service. His note - "I have no idea of its history" - carries over to explaining why this usage appeared, or what its precise relation to micturation is. The guess of an association with "brown off" is possible, as is an attraction to the vulgarity of "piss" or an affinity for another figurative usage of "piss."

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    Any information on the UK 'drunk' meaning? – Mitch Jun 3 '19 at 20:44
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    @Mitch Honestly I'm confused about the "drunk" meaning. I didn't find any early sources describing it like I did "pissed off." The OED places it in the 1920s (after a nonce usage in the 1820s). Like "pissed off," there could be several explanations for its use. I've got one connection between the two meanings, but it's pretty oblique - pissant and pisspot can refer to someone who is drunk or someone who is highly irritating or contemptible. I need to think about how to get from there to pissed. – TaliesinMerlin Jun 3 '19 at 21:21
  • The UK meaning is just pissed. No off. – Lambie Jun 3 '19 at 21:39
  • @Lambie I've also seen "up." – TaliesinMerlin Jun 3 '19 at 22:50
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    Stop pissing (me) about, mate. :) I think when you get drunk, especially on beer, there's a lot of pissing that goes on, right?. It's a synecdoche, kind of. Ha ha. – Lambie Jun 3 '19 at 22:56

To answer the angry part of this. I believe some say that the phrase originates from "Pissing Blood", which is where someone gets so angry that they rupture a blood vessel which causes them to urinate.

It was the early 19th Century when the word came to mean drunk, but it is unclear why. I suspect it was just used by an author in a book or play and became a popular turn of phrase. (Charles Dickens and William Shakepear were both well known for making up many words and phrases which took off and are still used today.)

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  • Perhaps because drinking beer famously makes you have to pee? – Stephen R Jun 3 '19 at 23:52
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    Compare choluria "presence of bile pigments in urine" vs choleric. Perhaps random chance though, the former is not given a date. – vectory Jun 4 '19 at 20:50

From the etymology of piss (v.): etymonline

late 13c., from Old French pissier "urinate" (12c.), from Vulgar Latin *pissiare, of imitative origin.

indeed reveals its literal association to urine. As @johnlowler noted in a comment on the variation in AmE and BrE, but I can find no facts as to the "what is the relation" (the when is easy). There are many phrases and phrasal verbs using piss, most dating to the middle ages.

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    Surely the question wasn't whether 'piss' means 'urine', but how a word concerning piss has come to mean drunk or angry? I don't see that this answers the question. – Spagirl Jun 3 '19 at 15:46
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    I stated such. I posted to ?: "So, does it have anything to do, even though figuratively, with "urine" ." – lbf Jun 3 '19 at 15:50
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    @Ibf Thanks of course, but I already know the literal meaning and knew from you all that there is a relation or association between these expressions and the literal meaning of the word "piss". But the question is: What is the relation??? – OS1799 Jun 3 '19 at 16:19

In some Indo-European language that I forgot to note, urine has a root etymologically close to the meaning "sour". Thus compare for analogy German sauer ("sour"), stinkig ("stinky")--both figurative for anger. An analogy might be visible in the theory of humors, if a bad liver causes urine to stink--cf. choleric.

Caveats: I have trouble remembering the word I'm alluding to. A notion of similarity between PIE roots does not satisfy the linguistic scholarship [1]<\sup>. Implying that pissed ~ pissy came through analogy to a word meaning stinky or sour only shifts the problem from one figurative meaning to another.

The drunk sense might be a) derivative in the sense wild, furious, b) derivative of pissed-off, "gone" in a sense "absent minded, unconscious", c) literal, d) something else. Given that drunk people must of invented it, it's probably not too meaningful.

Slurls involving piss are numerous (e.g. Greek "adulterer") and to a degree obvious or superficial enough not to need an in-depth etymology (unlike Greek "adulterer"). If there's more than sound symbolism to the word-stem, though, then involved idioms might help; Conversely, if it's really just sound immitative, then it's probably not relevant to the question.

1: Compare e.g. "*súHros (“sour”)" and "Proto-Indo-European *seHur 'to piss, make water'."

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