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Coffee etymology

Introduction – Origin of the word coffee (Coffee Etymology)

The coffee plant (Coffea arabica) is native to Ethiopia (previously Abyssinia) and was first written about by the Persian physician Rhazes. The coffee plants were first cultivated in Yemen (previously Arabia Felix) and it was first drunk extensively by the Muslim dervishes in Arden and Turkey was the first country to roast the green coffee beans. So is it any wonder then, that the origin of the word coffee would have its roots in the Arabic language.
'Qahwah’ is the Arabic term for the coffee drink, and while scholars disagree on the exact link that led to the English word “coffee”, there is no doubt that it was an Arabic word with some connection to ‘Qahwah’. It is generally agreed that the term coffee found its way into European languages in about the 1600′s, most probably from the Italian term “caffe” which was derived from the Turkish pronunciation “kahveh” of the Arabic word ‘Qahwah’ as shown below.
Moreover, we should note that these terms represent the drink made by infusing coffee beans, rather than the name of the coffee cherry fruit or the coffee plant itself. Qahwa/Al-Qahwa was a common Yemen term used in the 14th century to describe the beverage made by boiling the fruit of the coffea arabica plant. Prior to coffee consumption the word “qahwa” was in common use in Arabic and denoted the idea of making something repugnant or lessening one’s desire for something. Some medieval Arab lexicographers also gave “qahwa” the meaning of wine or dark stuff.

Coffee’s Global Names

Coffee drinking has spread from an exclusively Arabian drink prior to the 1400′s, into a global drink enjoyed in almost every country in the world. So, each language has needed to merge a term into their vocabulary that described this exotic drink. Here is a sample of the names that the term coffee is known by in global languages

Origin of the word Coffee in the Dictionary

James Murray, in the New English Dictionary, believed that the origin of the English word “coffee” connects with the name Kaffa, a town in Shoa, southwest Abyssinia (Ethopia), which is the reputed native place of the coffee plant. However, there is little evidence to support this connection because the coffee berry or plant is called “bunn” in Arabic with a different word being used to describe the drink. Sir James Murray also draws attention to the existence of two European origins for the word “coffee”, one similar to the French café and Italian caffè, the other like the Dutch koffie.

Col. W.F. Prideaux, another New English Dictionary contributor, argued that the European languages got one form of the word coffee directly from the Arabic ‘qahwah’, and quoted from Hobson-Jobson in support of this while, Sir Thomas Herbert in his folio about his travels in Africa (1638) expressly states that “they drink (in Persia) … above all the rest, Coho or Copha: by Turk and Arab called Caphe and Cahua.” Here the Persian, Turkish, and Arabic pronunciations are clearly differentiated.

According to The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, European languages generally seem to have derived the name coffee from the Turkish “kahveh” in about 1600 via the Italian term “caffe”. “Kahveh” is the Turkish pronunciation of the Arabic name “qahwah” which originally meant ‘a sort of wine’ and is a derivative of the verb “qahiya” (meaning – to have no appetite).

The first mentions of the word coffee in literature

Europe’s first knowledge of coffee was brought by travellers returning from the Far East and the Levant (an area of modern day Israel and Lebanon, including the Jordan Valley and a small bit of Syria)

Leonhard Rauwolf recorded his famous journey into the Eastern countries in a book called Rauwolf’s Travels. He left from Marseilles in September, 1573, having left his home in Augsburg, the 18th of the preceding May. He reached Aleppo in November, 1573; and returned to Augsburg, February 12, 1576. He was the first European to mention coffee; and to him also belongs the honour of being the first to refer to the coffee beverage in print.

Rauwolf was not only a doctor of medicine and a botanist of great renown, but also official physician to the town of Augsburg. When he spoke, it was as one having authority. The first printed reference to coffee appears as “chaube” in chapter viii of his Rauwolf’s Travels, which deals with the manners and customs of the people from the city of Aleppo.

Other writers referred to the word “coffee” as;

English and Dutch literature;

  • “cohoo” Jourdain (1609)
  • “coffe” Revett (1609)
  • “coho pots” and “coffao pots” in Danvers’s Letters (1611)
  • “cohu” Sir T. Roe (1615) and Terry (1616)
  • “cowha” (1619) Foster’s English Factories in India
  • “cowhe, couha” (1621), Foster’s English Factories in India
  • “coffa” (1628). Foster’s English Factories in India
  • “coffee” Evelyn (1637)
  • “coho and copha” Sir T. Herbert (1638)
  • “coho” Fryer (1673)
  • “coffee” Ovington (1690)
  • “coffi” Valentijn (1726)

French and Italian literature;

  • “caova” Prospero Alpini (1580)
  • “chaoua” Paludanus (1598)
  • “cahoa” Pyrard de Laval (1610)
  • “caveah” P. Della Valle (1615)
  • “caveah” Jac. Bontius (1631)
  • “cave” the Journal d’Antoine Galland (1673)

Conclusion – Origin of the term coffee (Coffee Etymology)

In 1895 the Parisian Édelestan Jardin publishes a work on coffee, entitled “Le Caféier et le Café” (The coffee tree and Coffee). In that work Jardin concludes that scholars are not agreed on the etymology of the word coffee, and perhaps will never be.

He goes on to explain that;

  • Philippe Sylvestre Dufour in his book Traités Nouveaux et Curieux du Café, du Thé, et du Chocolat.Lyons, 1684, reckons that the word is derived from “caouhe”, a name given by the Turks to the beverage prepared from the seed.
  • Chevalier d’Arvieux, French consul at Alet, Savary, and Trevoux, in his dictionary “Travels in Arabia the Desert” Paris 1717, think that coffee term comes from the Arabic, but from the word “cahoueh” or “quaweh”, meaning to give vigour or strength, because, says d’Arvieux, its most general effect is to fortify and strengthen. Frenchman Tavernier’s (1605-85) travel records combat this opinion.
  • D’Alembert in his 1751–77 encyclopedic dictionary (Encyclopédistes), writes that the word “caffé” was the origin of the English word coffee.
  • Moseley B.M. in a treatise about the properties and effects of coffee. London, 1785, attributes the origin of the word coffee to “Kaffa”.
  • Sylvestre de Sacy, in his Chréstomathie Arabe, published in 1806, thinks that the word “kahwa”, synonymous with makli, roasted in a stove, might very well be the etymology of the word coffee.

Jardin concludes that whatever there may be in these various etymologies, it remains a fact that the word coffee comes from an Arabian word, whether it be "qahwah", “kahua”, “kahoueh”, “kaffa” or “kahwa”, and that the peoples who have adopted the drink have all modified the Arabian word to suit their own languages as described in the table above.

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Source: espressocoffee.quora.com
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