Although Java has become a slang name for coffee, the word originally meant barley: thousands of years ago, an Indonesian island famous for its barley acquired the Sanskrit name Yavadvipa, yava meaning barley, and dvipa meaning island. In time, the name of the island shortened to just Yava, which in English became Java. Because the island of Java was also, at one time, the world’s main producer of coffee beans, coffee came to be known as Java, a term first recorded in English in the middle of the nineteenth century. Java may have also inspired coffee’s other nickname, joe, as in, cup o’ joe, an expression dating back to the early 1940s; however, as far back as the nineteenth century the name Joe had also been used to mean American male (as in G.I. Joe), an eponym that may have led someone to transfer the name to the beverage epitomizing American culture—coffee.


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