Etymology of the Word Tea

Although there are a few quite minor exceptions in which the word tea is pronounced, the two common ways are the English pronunciation and the lesser known Afrikaans variant tee. In Hindu, sometimes they call tea cha, but it is not quite a direct translation.

These pronunciations hold a common history and share the same root within Chinese history. The concept, of which these words spread, offers a distinct view of globalization within early history. The term cha, for example, spread along the ancient trade route known as the Silk Road.

The word cha (茶) is “Sinitic, which implies it’s origination to many varieties of the Chinese language. Along the silk road the word even traveled to Persia and inevitably became known as chay (چای) in countries such as Persia. Records exist which show that tea was traded as far back as 2,000 years ago. After making it’s way to the southern regions of the sub-Saharan Africa, the term changed it’s pronunciation yet again and became known as chay.

Even the Japanese and Korean terms originate from the Chinese term cha, as China was the first country which saw tea as a potential agricultural crop, and was responsible for it’s eventual popularity.

The Chinese character for tea (茶) is even pronounced differently among differing regional dialects, despite it always being written the same.

Of course, this bit of history doesn’t account for the Western tea pronunciation.

The European pronunciation was used alongside coastal regions of China and spread through-out trade routs to Europe. The dutch people were major traders with Asia in the 17th century. The common pronunciation grew popular in dutch trade harbors. From there the lingo traveled to France and was pronounced thé. In Germany it was pronounced Tee. Inevitably in England, you would find the traditional pronunciation tea.

There are a few other pronunciations in other countries such as Burmese where it is pronounced lakphak but this is rather uncommon in the modern world. These other, lesser known terms, are very regional and not widely used.

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