cup of joe

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Alternative forms[edit]



  • Possibly a shortening of "cup of jamoke", from java + mocha: this origin was given in a military officer's manual from 1931, around when the term first appeared.[1]
  • Alternatively, perhaps a use of joe (fellow, guy), signifying that coffee was the drink of the common man.
  • Another theory suggests that US soldiers in World War I (1914-1918) referred to a serving of instant coffee made by the G. Washington Coffee Refining Company (founded in 1910) as a "cup of George", and that the common abbreviation of the name "George" ("Geo.") was then read as "Joe".[2]
  • 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 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.[3] Confusingly, some other sources consider the Daniels derivation unlikely for the opposite reason: they say "cup of joe" predates the order.[4][5]
A cup of joe.


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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."
  2. (figurative, idiomatic) One’s personal preference.



  1. ^ The manual states “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. ^ Mark Pendergrast, Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World
  3. ^ Snopes, quoting Michael Quinion (2004), “Cup of joe”, in Ballyhoo, Buckaroo, and Spuds: Ingenious Tales of Words and Their Origins, Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Books in association with Penguin Books, →ISBN.
  4. ^ Simon Spalding, Food at Sea: Shipboard Cuisine from Ancient to Modern Times (2014, →ISBN: "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."
  5. ^ George Barnett, Marine Corps Commandant: A Memoir, 1877-1923 (2015, →ISBN: "Josephus Daniels [] famously banned alcohol from the officer's mess and official functions, though the phrase “cup of Joe” for coffee predates this action."