• cappuccino •
kæ-pê-chi-no • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, mass
Meaning: Espresso coffee with hot milk, topped with steamed foam, especially as served in coffee bars.
Notes: Cappuccino, like espresso (not expresso), is an Italian word reflecting the origin of the coffee itself. Although many have difficulty recalling which of the inner consonants are doubled they should not have, since both of them are doubled.
In Play: Today's Good Word has no figurative applications: "I love their cappuccinos because they are a double treat; you get four sips of foam before your lips reach the coffee." So, we must stick to the literal uses: "The barista there has a grandiose repertoire of designs he can draw in the foam of the lattes and cappuccinos."
Word History: The name of this coffee comes from the Capuchin friars, who wore brown habits, each with a cappuccio, a long, pointed headdress. Cappuccino "little cappuccio" is a diminutive of cappuccio "hood". Cappuccio "big, extended hood" is the augmentative of Late Latin cappa "cowl, hooded cape". Cappa is a shortened form of capitum "head covering", derived from Latin caput "head". Latin inherited this word from PIE kaput- "head", which wore its way through the ancestral Germanic languages to Old English heafod "head", and on down to Modern English head. It ended up in in Old French as chief, which English snitched as chief, and Modern French as chef, whereupon English found a new use for it. Kerchief started out as Old French couvrechief "head cover", whence it was borrowed by Old English, and ended up where it is today in English. Since kappas were cowls, hooded capes, we can easily see how the word migrated to cap and cape in English. (Tony Bowden of London probably thought of today's smashingly Good Word over a cup of cappuccino. We thank him for sharing it with us.)