Have you ever wondered how to say "coffee" in different languages or needed to know how to order coffee while traveling internationally? We'll take you around the world to learn how to say coffee in over 70 languages.
Note: Many of these words have been Romanized.
The Word Coffee Around the World
A few other languages picked up the word or a derivative:
- Urdu: coffee
- Welsh: coffi (pronounced ko-FEE)
In many languages throughout the world, the letter 'k' is preferred over the hard 'c,' and yet the word is pronounced in a very similar manner.
- Afrikaans: koffie (pronounced coffee)
- Dutch: koffie (pronounced coffee)
- Esperanto: kafo
- German: der Kaffee (pronounced kah-FEE; masculine; the “K” is capitalized because all German nouns are capitalized)
- Finnish: kahvi
- Hindi: kofi (pronounced KOH-fee)
- Russian: kofe (pronounced koe-fee)
Where 'Café' Is Used Around the World
Café (pronounced ka-FEY) is used more widely than coffee, and a variety of languages prefer it, including French, Italian, and Spanish. It's thought to have started in Italy with caffe, referring to the Kaffa region in Ethiopia.
You're pretty safe in using café when traveling throughout the world.
- Italian: caffe (pronounced KA-fee)
- French: café
- Spanish: el café (masculine)
- Bengali/Bangla: café
- Catalan: cafe
- Galician: café
- Irish: caife
- Portuguese: café
- Romanian: cafea (pronounced café-ah)
- Thai: kafea or ca-fea
- Vietnamese: ca phe (pronounced ka FEY) or cafe
Again, many languages prefer to use a 'k' in café, though the pronunciation rarely changes.
A few European languages use a softer ending, more like 'fee' rather than 'fay.'
- Icelandic: kaffii.'
- Latvian: kafija (pronounced ka-fee-ya)
- Luxembourgish: Kaffi (like in German, all nouns are capitalized)
The languages of China and its neighbors are interesting. They sound very similar to café, but when they are Romanized, they read a little different.
- Chinese (Cantonese): ga feh
- Chinese (Mandarin): kafei (both consonants are in a "first tone," meaning that they are high and even in pronunciation)
- Taiwanese: ka fei (same as Mandarin)
The Origins of Coffee
It's important to remember that coffee is thought to have originated in the Middle East and Eastern Africa, particularly in the area of Yemen and Ethiopia. This is also where many words for coffee began.
For instance, coffee beans got their name from the combination of “Kaffa,” a major Ethiopian coffee-producing area, and “bun.” Also, Mocha is a port city in Yemen and led to the naming of a style of coffee bean, while today we often use it to describe chocolate drinks like the mocha latte.
However, the words for coffee in the languages spoken in these countries are quite different from the rest of the world.
- Ethiopian Amharic: buna (pronounced boona)
- Ethiopian Semitic: bunna, buni, or bun
- Arabic: qahioa, qahua, or qahwe (The 'q' sound is pronounced low in the throat so that it may sound more like 'ahua' to non-Arabic speakers.)
Tip: In Egypt and some other areas, coffee is typically served with sugar. To order it without sugar, say “qahua sada.”
Kava: A Popular Word for Coffee
Taking from the Arabic word qahwah, the Turkish word kahveh developed. This led to many of the Eastern European languages using the word kava for coffee.
- Turkish: kahveh (pronounced kah-VEY)
- Belarusian: kava
- Croatian: kava
- Czech: kava (pronounced kaava) or kafe
- Lithuanian: kava
- Polish: kawa (pronounced kava)
- Slovakian: kava (pronounced kah-va)
- Ukrainian: kavy or kava
A few languages in this same region have slight variations on kava:
- Georgian: qava or chai
- Hungarian: kavé (pronounced KAH-vey)
- Serbian: kafa
- Slovenian: kave
- Yiddish: kave
Pacific Island Languages and 'Kopi'
As we move into the islands of the Pacific Ocean, we see more variations of kopi when speaking about coffee.
- Filipino/Tagalog: kape
- Hawaiian: kope
- Indonesian: kopi
- Korean: keopi or ko-pyi
- Malay: kawah or koppi
- Sinhalese (Sri Lanka): kopi
- Tamil (Sri Lanka): kapi-kottai or kopi
More Ways to Say Coffee
There are always exceptions, and these languages prefer to use their word for coffee. You can see some similarities with the more popular derivatives, but they are unique.
- Armenian: surch (pronounced suurch) or sourdj
- Estonian: kohv
- Japanese: koohii
- Ojibwe: muckadaymashkikiwabu (literally mean "black medicine water" in the language of the Anishinabek Native Americans)
- Persian: qéhvé
- Swahili: kahawa
- Zulu: ikhofi