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Where did the phrase “Cup of Joe” come from?

The phrase "cup of Joe" is believed to have originated in the United States and is commonly used as a colloquialism for a cup of coffee. The exact origin of the phrase is uncertain, but there are several theories that attempt to explain its etymology.


  • One popular theory suggests that "cup of Joe" originated from the U.S. Navy. According to this theory, "Joe" referred to Josephus Daniels, who served as the Secretary of the Navy during the presidency of Woodrow Wilson from 1913 to 1921. During his tenure, Daniels issued a series of regulations that prohibited the consumption of alcohol on Navy ships and establishments, making coffee the most popular beverage among sailors. As a result, the term "cup of Joe" may have emerged as a slang term used by sailors to refer to their preferred hot beverage, coffee, as a playful reference to Secretary Daniels.

  • Another theory suggests that "cup of Joe" may have originated from the use of the word "Joe" as a generic or placeholder name, signifying it was a drink for the common man. In English, the name "Joe" has historically been used as a generic or informal name for an ordinary person, similar to how "John Doe" or "Jane Doe" are used as placeholders in legal or medical contexts. Therefore, "cup of Joe" could simply be a way of referring to an ordinary or generic cup of coffee.

  • There are also other less widely accepted theories that attribute the origin of "cup of Joe" to other sources, such as the idea that it comes from the combination of java + mocha to say "cup of Jamoke"...later shortened to "cup of Joe".


What stories have you heard about the origination of that famous "cup of Joe"?


Even though the exact origin of the phrase "cup of Joe" is not definitively known, it has evolved over time through various linguistic influences and cultural contexts. Nevertheless, it remains a commonly used and recognized term for a cup of coffee in America and beyond.



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