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Etymology of tea (wikipedia.org)
67 points by thewarpaint on March 14, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 23 comments

The Finnish language is wonderful, and there is a link between the verb "to do" (tehdä) and "tea" (tee).

"tee tee" : You say this when you are a foreigner (like myself) and you want to tell a Finn to make tea. Saying "tee tee" will make two things happen simultaneously and immediately: 1) the Finn will switch to English, and 2) if it's your girlfriend or wife, she will tell you to make your own damn tea. Less certain and immediate is whether you actually get a cup of tea. Correct, but less interesting: "tee teetä".

"te teette teetä" : A correct way of either commanding a group of people to make some tea, or of letting them know that the are, in fact, making tea, ie: You all are making some tea.

(Read "ee" above as a kind of extended "eh": eeehhh, and "ä" as the short a as in "hat" (like, "hät" is pronounced exactly like hat is))

Estonian is even worse, as "tee" is also road (in Finnish, "tie").

This reminds me of a series of etymological (European) maps that I found once and really enjoyed[1]. I geek out over the footprints that history leaves all over language.

[1] https://m.imgur.com/a/zrznb

Do you have a source on who made those? They're pretty fascinating and I'd love to learn more about how they were made.

Reminds me of this nice map of what tea is called across Europe: https://jakubmarian.com/tea-in-european-languages-map/

As a Swede, I can just add that the spelling come in quite many forms: te (official), té, the, thé, tea...

Completely missing out that "char" is used in English.

This reminded me of an article about how sea-faring cultures call it "tea", and land-trading cultures call it "cha".


In Polish language we use herbata word. It is a herb tea. Its unique for whole Europe. I think mostly because it was not popular in Poland for ages. People drinked here honey, milk, mead, beer. Compared to it tea was lame. People added wine, ice cream and other stuff to make it taste better.

Also, there were other brews, for example from mint before here. So herbata was not exciting in any way. But eventually it made it through and is now main beverage here with a distinct name across whole Europe.

> Its unique for whole Europe.

Almost. Unsurprisingly, given their history, the only word for tea in Lithuanian is the same - arbata - borrowed from Polish.

In Belarus they also use it in parallel with the Russian word (no idea which one is more common in daily usage).

Poland ans Lithuania was a union. Maybe it has something to do with it. We are like brothers and sisters

There was an article that discussed this in the Summer 2019 edition of Lapham’s Quarterly dedicated to ‘Trade’.


> English has all three forms: cha or char (both pronounced /ˈtʃɑː/), attested from the late 16th century; tea, from the 17th; and chai, from the 20th.

I've never, ever encountered "cha" or "char" in my English speaking country (US) - is this something commonly encountered in England?

In the UK cha/char (never seen it written down, so don't know how to spell it) is a relatively common colloquial term for tea.

In Ireland you do sometimes hear someone looking for a "cuppa cha". Not common but you do hear it

It's a 16th century word that is now extremely rare.

From the article, OED definition 3 for "char": https://www.lexico.com/definition/char#h69854260165380

The main article on tea in the history and origin section has some of the earliest attestations in English cited:

"The first record of tea in English came from a letter written by Richard Wickham, who ran an East India Company office in Japan, writing to a merchant in Macao requesting "the best sort of chaw" in 1615. Peter Mundy, a traveller and merchant who came across tea in Fujian in 1637, wrote, "chaa – only water with a kind of herb boyled in it ".[45][46]"

Macao was a portuguese colony and until today the regular word for tea in portuguese is chá,read cha in English. Just found out that tea in spanish is not chá, which is very interesting given the huge commonality in portuguese and Spanish. Also as per Wikipedia chá is mandar

Slightly connected: I Just recently learned frkm Wikipedia that the word coco/côco from the coconut fruit comes from a portuguese folklore figure that i never heard of. Which is weird because I am portuguese and my parents also never heard of any similar folklore. We have a an expression which translates to "break the coco laughing" which i always took to be related to the fruit and now I think it may be a remnant of the folklore figure that gave the name to the coconut fruit.

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coco_(folklore)

I am from Brazil and while I never heard of Coco with that meaning, "Cuca" is a very known evil character from a very popular series of children's books called "Sítio do Picapau Amarelo"[1], and I would assume that its heavily influenced by the same legend, while in case of the books she is a witch and based more based on a dragon or an alligator than a bugbear. You can see it here from one of the several TV adaptation. [2]

Also, based on the series there is this popular music "A Cuca te pega", or in a free English translation: "The Cuca catch you". [3]

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/S%C3%ADtio_do_Picapau_Amarel...

[2] https://youtu.be/bIiujEcXcRw

[3] https://youtu.be/y4YLN0ZQdyk

'yum cha' in Cantonese → "drink tea"

Cha is still commonly used in the UK, both in the tea-sense, and in the cleaner-sense (though charlady, or person who chars would also be commonish):


"cha" is absolutely recognised in Australia for tea.

Maybe somewhat less these days, but still there.

I came here hoping for this instead: https://knowyourmeme.com/memes/the-tea

Not sure why you're getting downvoted, but here's an upvote to counter it!

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