A Monk/ey’s Favorite Beverage?

In the interest of being somewhat topical, I thought I’d discuss the name of a warm winter beverage that clearly is of Italian origin (and as such may present a spelling challenge as well).

Cappuccino – with double p’s and double c’s – is a frothy coffee beverage made with steamed milk. The milk gives it a light brown color (unlike regular coffee), which, like a “Black and Tan,” is actually where its name comes from.

Let me explain.

In Italian, a cappuccio (no ‘n’) is a hood or hooded robe. These robes are worn by many friars, particularly those of the Franciscan order and by an offshoot of the Franciscans, the aptly-named Capuchin monks. Because the light brown color of these robes resembles the color of the frothy coffee beverage, it came to be called cappuccino or “little hood.”

Capuchin monkeys get their name from the same word, but for a reason other than color. They have a patch of dark fur on top of their heads that resembles a hood or cap. Which got me wondering: does our English word “cap” derive from the same Italian word? In a roundabout way, yes. It actually goes back farther, to Latin (cappa), which of course is also where the Italian language got “cappuccio.”

Now if only I could find a picture of a Capuchin monkey drinking a cappuccino . . .


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2 responses to “A Monk/ey’s Favorite Beverage?

  1. Ann McGrath

    Love your explanation of these words. I am getting an education for sure! Keep up the good work and look forward to your next “Away With Words”

  2. Brian Walker

    Some shops take the meaning too literally, their Cappuccino tastes like monkey and friar robe.

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