Lexis: more exotic loanwords & related issues


What happens when a word

·       comes from an unrelated and unfamiliar language

·       is borrowed orally

o      the case of coffee (with thanks to student Z.P.)


Coffee seems to have come from the Turkish pronunciation kahveh of the Arabic word qahwah, the latter

·       denoting the drink, not the plant (bunn ‘berry, bean’)

·       originally meaning ‘wine’

·       perhaps referring to a place where the coffee plant grows, Kaffa, in Ethiopia


There are different European forms

·       Italian caffè, French, Spanish, Portuguese cafē, German kaffee, etc.

·       Dutch koffie, earlier German coffee, koffee


And many different spellings

·       caoua, cahve, cahu, etc.

·       coffa, caffa, capha

·       caphe, cauphe, cophie, etc.

o      oral borrowing

o      from an unrelated and unfamiliar source language

§       OED will subclassify forms with Greek letters: ‘alpha’, ‘beta’, ‘gamma’ etc.


Word comes into English (and all European languages) around 1600


Earliest citations in travel literature, e.g.

·       1598 Linschoten’s Trav. The Turkes holde almost the same manner of drinking of their Chaoua, which they make of a certaine fruit by the Egyptians called Bon or Ban

·       1601 W. Parry Sherley’s Trav. A certain Liquor which they call Coffe … which will soon intoxicate the brain.

·       1603-30 Capt. Smith Trav. & Adv. Their best drinke is Coffa of a graine they call Coava

o      definitions and descriptions signal the word’s unfamiliarity


Mid-17th century citations chart its introduction to England

·       1636 Evelyn, Memoirs There came in my time [1636] to the College, one Nathaniel Conopios, out of Greece. He was the first I ever saw drink coffee; which custom came not into England till thirty years after.


Quickly integrated: by the 1660s it’s familiar (“our Cophee”)

·       1664 Evelyn, Sylva Which might yet be drank daily as our Cophee is

·       1665 G. Harvey, Advice agst. Plague Coffee is recommended against the Contagion


Helpful citations under coffee-house: 1650 or before?

1615 G. SANDYS Trav. I. 66 Coffa-houses [in Constantinople]..There sit they chatting most of the day, and sippe of a drinke called Coffa.

1656 BLOUNT Glossogr., Cauphe-house, a Tavern or Inn where they sel Cauphe.

1664 PEPYS Diary 24 Nov., To a coffee-house, to drink jocolatte.

a1672 WOOD Life (1848) 48 This yeare [1650] Jacob a Jew opened a coffey house at the Angel in the parish of S. Peter in the east, Oxon.


And by the next century it’s a familiar point of reference

·       1702 W.J. Bruyn’s Voy. Levant.  The most usual Liquor … Kahue, which we call Coffee

o      unaware that the words are related?



·       compounds: coffee berries, coffee plantation

·       compounds for coffee paraphernalia: coffee dish, coffee mill (C17th), coffee cup (C18th)

·       metonym: coffee ‘light meal at which coffee is taken’ (c18th) (cf tea)