Where did the slang term juice/sauce for steroids come from? I suppose that it may be a metaphor because of being liquid or maybe the similarity in colour. I cannot find any information on its origin, can you help me out?

  • 2
    The original source / etymology for such terms (and there will be dozens) will be different in almost every case. All they really have in common is what they currently refer to. But sauce has a long history of being a slang term for alcoholic drink, as does gear in respect of pot / hash and heroin. May 10 at 10:10
  • How about you show us where the idea for steroids as juice comes from before we get into origins?
    – Lambie
    May 10 at 13:04
  • @Lambie I'm not sure whether I understand you, because I think the idea of where it comes from and the origins are the same thing. The word 'juice' is used as a slang equivalent to the word 'steroids', and there is also a verb - 'to juice' (to be on steroids). The thing is, I cannot find why people started calling it that
    – chindofya
    May 10 at 13:28
  • I've heard juice, rather than sauce. I've heard sauce for alcohol, "He's back on the sauce" = He's no longer abstaining. May 10 at 14:08
  • @YosefBaskin both are used, I have found the usage but not the origin. I saw this meaning too, but I am not sure whether it has anything to do with steroids because juice also has the meaning of alcohol, but it's more likely to have acquired the "steroid meaning" because one of its meanings is fuel
    – chindofya
    May 10 at 14:11

4 Answers 4


It's worth looking at Urban Dictionary for the sheer variety of meaning attributed to "juice".

A relevant entry, dated 2005, is at

on the juice - slang. - taking anabolic steroids - "Rumor has it that the reason Barry Bonds is able to hit so many home runs is because he's "on the juice"."


juice = steroids

I shot up with some juice today - by Shell February 6, 2003

One entry sums up the use of the word:



perhaps one of the most wonderous, and versitile words of the english language; it can refer to semen, which is the source of all human life...or steroids which are not only a sometimes necesary form of body enhancement, but a cure for many common health problems. finally it refers to a life giving ambrosial drink that can be made from many things, and usually contains nature's natural sweetness.

1}- i spilled my juice into that girl by accident, and now she's pregnant.

2}- my kid was bor with an underdeveloped lung, but they put him on the juice, and now he's ok.

3}- damn it's hot out and i'm crashing; let's go inside and have a refreshing glass of cranberry juice. by mescelestus June 6, 2006

The result of all of this is that "juice" refers to any liquid and its effects. The origin of the word when specifically referencing steroids, is likely never to be discovered.

As to the etymology and development of the word itself, it is first recorded in the 13th century:


1.a. The watery or liquid part of vegetables or fruits, which can be expressed or extracted; commonly containing the characteristic flavour and other properties.

α.c1290 S. Eng. Leg. I. 360/52 Iuys of smal-Ache do þar-to.

Which quickly expanded to indicate an essence:

4.a. In figurative uses: usually denoting the essence or ‘spirit’ of something, in which its characteristic qualities are found, or which renders it useful, agreeable, or interesting.

c1380 Eng. Wycliffite Serm. in Sel. Wks. II. 67 Þo prestis þat geten out juys of Goddis word.

From which we can see the development of juice to mean power/influence as in alcohol/fuel and hence, when they arrived on the sporting scene, steroids.


'Juice' has long had a secondary meaning of fuel or power (eg 'my car ran out of juice', or 'my phone is out of juice'). I can see this use as early as 1935 in Google Books.

From this word, we also have the expression 'juiced up', which means that something has been filled with fuel, or running at maximum power. Persons taking steroids are frequently described as 'juiced up', so it isn't surprising that 'juice' has become slang for the steroids themselves.

Steroids come in many forms - tablets, syrups, liquids etc - so I don't believe any visible similarity to actual juice is relevant.


The sauce is drugs, and likely transferred to anabolic steroid use.

The Oxford English Dictionary acknowledges the use of sauce to refer to alcohol (def. 6a) or other narcotics (6b). The second definition is followed by an example from 1975, referring to heroin use, but also seems parallel to the notion of being on the sauce, that is, abusing alcohol:

6 b. A drug or drugs; narcotics. Cf. juice n. 1f. rare. In quot. with reference to heroin.

1975 N. Freeling What are Bugles blowing For? xii. 74 Castang found a narcotics squad cop... Patricia was known, but not well. ‘She got off the sauce for nearly a year.’

Likely sauce transferred from alcohol or other narcotics to steroids once steroid use became widespread. I can't find a smoking gun for when that occurred, but the usage likely emerged between the early 1980s and the mid 1990s.

The usage may be fairly recent or at least niche when Sue Grafton writes this excerpt for "M" is for Malice (1996):

I've heard people claim he's on the sauce - shooting anabolic steroids in concert with all the iron he pumps.

The usage is similarly glossed in an interview in the 1997 book Building Bodies by Ann Bolin:

Just about anobody who's motivated enough can train hard, you can even go on the sauce [steroids] and get bigger, but dieting is special.


One related idea is "juice" as interest charged by loan sharks -- it is what energizes both the lender and the borrower in the "vital force"/energy sense. Juice in fruit indicates it is ripe or alive. Related also is "blood" especially as in "bloodless" describing someone who is not excited/excitable.

Anyway, I think since steroid are meant to increase strength, it is not a stretch to see calling steroids "juice" in the sense of energy/energizing.

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