Why is the word for coffee the same in every language?

I’ve been told that the Chinese word(s) for telephone is te le fung, but I have no personal knowledge of Chinese to back that up.

Kiwi is also the same in virtually every language.

In Manderin its Dian3 hua3 which translates to something like electric speech I think. Te le fung could very well be another way, but i wouldn’t know.

Some Dutch words:

Coffee is koffie [kô-fee] (I read somewhere that the Dutch settlers introduced the term to (American) English - although it could have been known to the actual English as well, I suppose). Likewise, I was told that the American English word “Boss” is a phonetic derivative of the dutch word baas, meaning same. Likewise, “cookie” came from the Dutch equivalent koekje [cook-yuh]. Does anyone know a good site to verify this sort of thing?

Telephone is telefoon [tay-lay-phone]. The words for mom and dad are mama and papa.

I can only think of one globaly universal word that is Dutch in origin, and in fact isn’t even altered in other languages. Unfortunately, that word is Apartheid.

Koreans took the word coffee, pronounced caw pee, but didn’t take telephone. Their word is pronounced Chun hwa

A couple of Danish ones, FWIW:

Coffee = Kaffe (Well-bred Danes spoke German or French among each other when coffee was introduced, so keeping the word was only natural.)

Telephone = Telefon

Oddly enough, telescope = “Kikkert”, lit. “peeker” or “peeking device”. (Well, the word “teleskop” is used as well, but what’s the fun in that ?)

I know of but one Danish word exported to the world at large, at least in modern times: “Ombudsman(d)”.

S. Norman

We use telescoop, or the more mundane sterrekijker. “Star watcher”! Makes much more sense.

Incidently, the Dutch always crack up at hearing South Africans speak. They use such descriptive words. E.G. where we say lift for, well, “lift” or “elevator”, a South African will call it a hijsbak, literally meaning something like “hoisting tank”. Which is precisely what it is, but its sounds SO funny. :wink:

[national pride]
Spiny claims:

Sorry to disapoint you, Websters claims it comes from Swedish.
[/national pride]

Coffee = kaffe
Telephone = Telefon
telescope = teleskop (or rather kikare)
in Swedish as well.
(Written Danish and Swedish may look similar, but the pronunciation is different! I would probably have serious problems understanding our friend Spiny, while I can read a Danish paper.)

tc, I hate to admit it, but it looks like you’re right - I’ll never trust my 4th grade teacher again. Looks like I have some crow-eating to do, pass the condiments.

[sullen voice]
Damn, have no Danish words made it big ?
[/sullen voice]

And so does smorgasbord.


Ko Phe sounds more Indonesian to me. Cà Phê is how I write it in Vietnamese, and that’s how I see my friends write it although I don’t deny that “ko phe” might be some bizarro jungle dialect.

Telephone = Ðiên thoai

Mango = Xoai

No = Không

In literary Urdu, according to the dictionary, they use the Arabic word for coffee: qahvah. But in everyday colloquial Urdu they just say kâfî from English; in Hindi it’s kâphî. In Iran they use the Arabic word qahvah, but it’s pronounced “ghahveh”.

The African language Hausa, like Urdu, uses either gahawa from Arabic or kofi from English. Swahili is another language that’s big on Arabic loanwords: they say kahawa.

All the European forms of the word like Kaffee, café, etc. came from the Italian caffè, since the Venetians, who traded a lot with the Turks, were the first western Europeans to come in contact with the stuff. When coffee spread around the world to Asia, it was the English word that Asian languages borrowed. In Malaysia they say kopi. Malay doesn’t distinguish the sounds of p and f. Once in a Malaysian university a student asked me where was the coffee machine. I directed him to the cafeteria. But he wanted to copy some papers.

Finnish kahvi must have come directly from Turkish.
Lithuanian kava looks Tahitian, but probably came from Arabic.
Russian kofe looks like a blend of the English and French forms.

Danish narhval (or possibly the same word in Norwegian) is the root of

Dutch narwal
Spanish narval
English narwhal
Italian narvalo
French narval
Swedish narval
German Narwal
Portuguese narval

The Icelandic word for the creature, náhvalur, is related but probably not derived from Danish.

Also, the oersted (a c.g.s. unit of magnetic intensity) is named after a Danish physicist, and the SI prefix femto- (10[sup]-15[/sup]) is either Danish or Norwegian.

Some time ago, I compiled a list of languages that English has borrowed words from. I tried to find a word that was unambiguously borrowed from each language rather than possibly from several related languages.

Because Norwegian, Swedish and Danish are, linguistically speaking, the same language[sup]1[/sup] and share almost all their vocabulary, it was difficult to do this for them. There were lots of words that were from Scandinavian and some from either of two Scandinavian languages, but few from just one. Norweian was the easiest, allowing me to choose from ski, slalom, vole, and lemming (and some other less common words). Swedish had the aforementioned smorgasboard and ombudsman. But Danish was especially difficult. The only one I could find was skoal (obviously not an international word).
[sup]1[/sup] This is a classic case of the linguistic truism[sup]2[/sup] “a language is a dialect with an army”. The difference between what is spoken in Stockholm and in Copenhagen is probably no greater than the difference between Boston and Atlanta. Yet Bostonians and Atlanteans both speak English.

[sup]2[/sup] Note to Jomo Mojo: linguistic truisms and sayings, like those in other disciplines, are not to be taken as 100% factual.

the fuck?!? anyway, in regards to cross-words, I believe wine is the one to beat. although it evolved from the earlier root [oino], the intial dipthong got velarized (is that right?)

so anyway, “wine” will give you a run for your money, ‘coffee’. at least if you stick to the romance/greco-roots. oh, proto-indo-european, too.

Buried in this thread is Akatsukami’s fact that coffee was originally from Ethiopia. The Arabs got it from them.

From my book on coffee Pocket Guide to Coffees and Teas by Kenneth Anderson; the Arabs made two distinctive drinks from the coffee bean,one of which bounya became known, generically as kahwah or caoue. The Turks stole it from the Arabs. Then the Europeans travelling to Arab lands in the mid/late-1500’s.

Classical Greek had oinos for ‘wine’, but in the earliest stage of Greek, the word began with a digamma (w): woinos. Corresponding to Latin vinum.

The word for wine was a loanword from Semitic to Indo-European. Compare Arabic wayn, Hebrew yayn. (Arabic initial w- always corresponds to Hebrew initial y-; for example the words for ‘boy’: walad and yeled, respectively.) There were other Semitic loanwords to IE, for example the word for ‘seven’: sab‘at- in Arabic, septm in Proto-Indo-European.

Japanese waino, however, is a modern loanword from English wino.

I think I mentioned already pretty plainly that the Arabs got the name for the coffee plant from Ethiopia. The coffee plant is native to Ethiopia. Coffee-drinking spread from Yemen, the first part of Arabia that caught on to it. In the fifteenth century. The local legends in Mukhá, Yemen (the origin of Mocha coffee) tell that it was a Sufi saint named ‘Alî ibn ‘Umar al-Shâdhilî who first taught the Yemenis about drinking coffee.

Historically there is a very good basis for coffee’s transferral from Ethiopia to Yemen. For several thousand years there have been traffic and migrations back and forth between the two countries. The Ethiopic languages (Ge‘ez, Amharic, Tigre, Tigriña, Harari) are derived from ancient South Arabian spoken in the Himyarite kingdoms of Yemen. The royal line of Ethiopia traced its descent from the Queen of Sheba (Saba’ was another ancient kingdom of Yemen). In the 6th century Yemen was ruled by an Ethiopian dynasty. Coffee is not the only psychoactive plant found on both sides of the Red Sea: there is also qât.

samclem, your source was slightly garbled. The Arabic word bunyah means ‘structure’. The word you’re thinking of is bunn, which Arabic borrowed from Ethiopic. Qahwah is made from the seeds (so-called beans) of the coffee fruit. The other kind of drink made from the coffee plant is called qishr, made from the pulp of the coffee fruit. The part other countries throw away after getting the beans out. In Yemen they dry the fruit pulp and brew a sort of tea with it. It doesn’t have caffeine.

The “Turks stole it”? Actually, I think they bought it and paid for it. It was a commercial commodity, after all. It was Venetians trading with Turks who first brought coffee to western Europe.

Jomo Mojo writes:

I beg to differ. The Semitic and Indo-European words for wine are generally considered to be loanwords into both languages from an Old Mediterranean root **woin-*.

The sab‘at/*septm correspondence is now generally though to be coincidence, although some have offered it in the past as evidence of an Indo-Semitic proto-language.