In a word

cappuccino

Mon, Aug 25, 2014, 01:00

And today’s word is cappuccino. Most think of it as being of Italian origin because of the name and because it is traditionally prepared with espresso, as well as hot milk and steamed-milk foam. The word itself does come from the Italian cappuccino, so nothing lost in transition there.

Cappuccino, in either English and/or Italian, is derived from the word Capuchin, and refers to the brown colour of the product which is the same as the habit of Franciscan monks.

The word capuchin itself originated in the 16th century with the Middle French capuchin which evolved in modern French to capucin. This became capuccino in Italian, diminutive of capuccio, meaning hood.

It may also be derived from the later Latin cappa, for cape or hooded cloak and could be related to the Latin caput, for head.

Franciscan Frairs became known as Capuchins because of the long pointed hoods on their habits/cloaks. It was also a type of monkey, as the hair on its head is shaped like a hood/cowl.

However it’s the back story to this word which is most interesting. Drinking coffee in Europe is began with the Ottoman Turks. They boiled the mixture of coffee and water, sometimes adding sugar. Coffee was brought to Europe by the Turks who had been introduced to it by the Arabs. Indeed the origin of the word reflects its history. It entered the English language in 1582 via the Dutch koffie, borrowed from the Turkish kahve, in turn borrowed from the Arabic qahwa, a truncation of qahhwat al-bun, meaning “wine of the bean”.

Marco d’Aviano was a Capuchin preacher sent by Pope Innocent XI to rally Catholics and Protestants to successfully stop the march westwards of the Ottoman Turks at the Battle of Vienna in 1683. It was a decisive battle of European history and the beginnings of a European counter-offensive which continued until the Ottoman empire collapsed in 1918.

Legend has it that following victory over the Ottomans in 1683 the Viennese found sacks of coffee abandoned by them but, on finding it too strong for their taste, they diluted it with cream and honey. As the drink was brown like a Capuchin’s habit the Viennese named it “cappuccino” in honour of Marco D’Aviano’s order.

In 2003 he was beatified by Pope John Paul, but that is not believed to have had anything to do with cappuccino. inaword@irishtimes.com

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