cup of joe

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Alternative forms[edit]


Of uncertain origin.

  • Possibly a shortening of "cup of jamoke", from Java + Mocha, where the best coffee formerly originated.[1]
  • Alternatively, perhaps a use of joe (fellow, guy), signifying that coffee was the drink of the common man.
  • Another theory derives the term from Josephus Daniels (1862-1948), the Secretary of the U.S. Navy who abolished the officers' wine mess and thus made coffee the strongest drink available on ships. Snopes considers this is unlikely because it says there is no attestation of the phrase "cup of joe" until 1930, 16 years after the 1914 order banning the wine mess.[2] Confusingly, some other sources consider the Daniels derivation unlikely for the opposite reason: they say "cup of joe" predates the order.[3][4]
  • Another theory suggests that US soldiers in WWI referred to a serving of instant coffee made by the "G. Washington's Refined Coffee" company as a "cup of George", which evolved into "cup of joe". George is often shortened to "Geo." and can be read as "joe".[5]


cup of joe (plural cups of joe)

  1. (chiefly US, idiomatic) A cup of coffee.
    • 2008 April 9, James Poniewozik, Starbucks' New Brew: A First Taste, in Time:
      Pike Place is Starbucks' attempt to address complaints that its regular cup of joe is bitter, overroasted and "burnt."


  1. ^ This origin was given in a 1931 a military officer's manual: “Jamoke, Java, Joe. Coffee. Derived from the words Java and Mocha, where originally the best coffee came from.” World Wide Words. American comedian W. C. Fields (1880-1946) often requested a 'mokka java', a blend of Arabian and Dutch coffee.
  2. ^ Snopes, quoting "Cup of joe" in Michael Quinion, Ballyhoo, Buckaroo, and Spuds, 2004.
  3. ^ Simon Spalding, Food at Sea: Shipboard Cuisine from Ancient to Modern Times (2014, ISBN 1442227370): "As if Josephus Daniels's legacy was not sufficiently confused already, some have questioned the etymology of the naval use of “cup o' Joe,” claiming that the idiom predates General Order 99."
  4. ^ George Barnett, Marine Corps Commandant: A Memoir, 1877-1923 (2015, ISBN 1476619204): "Josephus Daniels [] famously banned alcohol from the officer's mess and official functions, though the phrase “cup of Joe” for coffee predates this action."
  5. ^ Mark Pendergrast, Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World