Printable Version
Pronunciation: kaw-fee Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. An African shrub, e.g. Coffea arabica, now cultivated throughout the tropics for its seeds that are dried, roasted, and ground, to make an aromatic drink when soaked in hot water. 2. The drink made from the grounds of this plant. 3. The brown color of such a drink. 4. A social gathering at which coffee is served.

Notes: A 9th century goatherd named Kaldi in Kaffa Province, Ethiopia, saw that when his goats nibbled the red berries from a certain bush, they began to dance about energetically. He chewed some and felt energized himself.

In Play: coffee Kaldi gave some of these berries to the head monk of a nearby monastery, who promptly declared them "the devil's work" and threw them in a fire. The aroma from the roasting berries was so pleasant, however, the monk ordered them removed from the fire and water poured over them to cool them off. The aroma remained, so the monk drank the water and, voila! coffee was born.

Word History: This story is, no doubt, apocryphal, but its influence has been worldwide. Many words associated with this story are still popular today. Coffee in Kaffa is called buno, which was borrowed by Arabic as bunn "raw coffee". Bunn is now the name of a popular coffee brewing machine. "Kaffa" is now the largest coffee distributor in Ethiopia, and the name of coffee shops the world over, as are "Dancing Goats" and "Kaldi". Today's Good Word started out as Arabic qahwa "brew, coffee", which might have been suggested by Kaffa. It was picked up by Turkish as kahve "coffee", reflected in the Croatian and Bosnian borrowings from Turkish, kava and kahva, respectively. Once it reached Europe, it took on a European appearance, Italian caffè, French and Spanish café, German Kaffe. English borrowed the Dutch version, koffie. (Now let's give Brian Johnson in Tokyo a standing e-ovation for recommending today's Good Word with its rather fantastic story.)

Dr. Goodword,

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