My Tea Break

Rediscovering Tea around the world

Etymology of the word Tea

12 Comments

The Chinese character for Tea is 茶 , but it is pronounced differently in the various Chinese dialects.

Two pronunciations have made their way into other languages around the world. One is , which comes from the Chinese Min Nan dialect. The other is chá, used by the Cantonese dialect spoken around the ports of Guangzhou (Canton), Hong Kong, Macau, and in overseas Chinese communities, as well as in the Mandarin dialect of northern China.

The Portuguese and the Dutch, the original and major importers of Tea to Europe and the Middle East, mainly influenced the other European languages. Every language either have a cha or tê derived word.  

And… because you might find yourself in a different country and in need of a cup of Tea here is a list of the word Tea in 60 different languages:

Afrikaans: tee

Albanian: caj (pronounced chai)

Arabic: chai or shai

Armenian: te

Azerbaijani: caj (pronounced chai)

Basque: tea

Belarusian: harbatu

Bengali/Bangla: cha

Bulgarian: chai

Catalan: té

Chinese (Cantonese): cha

Chinese (Mandarin): cha

Croatian: caj (pronounced chai)

Czech: caj (pronounced cha-i)

Danish: te

Dutch: thee

English: tea

Esperanto: teo

Filipino/Tagalog: tsaa

Finnish: tee

French: thé

Galician: té

Georgian: ch’ai

German: der Tee

Greek: tsai

Haitian Creole: té

Hebrew: teh

Hindi: chai

Hungarian: tea (plural: teak)

Irish: tae

Italian: te (pronounced teh)

Icelandic: te

Indonesian: teh

Japanese: ocha

Korean: cha

Latvian: teja (pronounced tay-ya)

Lithuanian: arbata

Luxembourgish: Téi

Macedonian: chaj (pronounced chai)

Malay: teh

Maltese: te

Norwegian: te

Persian: chay (pronounced chai in most areas)

Polish: herbata

Portuguese: chá

Romanian: ceai

Russian: chai

Serbian: caj (pronounced chai)

Sinhalese (Sri Lanka): thé

Slovak: caj (pronounced chai)

Slovenian: caj (pronounced chai)

Somali: shaah

Spanish: té

Swahili: chai (pronounced cha-i)

Swedish: te

Taiwanese: de

Tamil (Sri Lanka): tea

Thai: chah (chah yen refers to Thai iced tea)

Tibetan: cha or ja

Turkish: cay (pronounced chai)

Ukrainian: chaj (pronounced chay)

Urdu: chai

(North) Vietnamese: che

(South) Vietnamese: tra (sometimes pronounced cha or ja)

Wolof: achai (pronounced uh-chuy)

Welsh: te

Yiddish: tey

Zulu: itiye

Happy cha or tê Break! 🙂

Tania

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12 thoughts on “Etymology of the word Tea

  1. loved this post, so cool how many different and similar ways!!
    xx j

  2. Thank you for a great post.

  3. Já ouvi esta versão, creio que inventada (não encontrei alguma referencia pela net). No entanto quem me contou assegura a sua veracidade. Se alguma vez me chegar prova de tal digo-o. A rainha Catarina recebia o chá por uma transportadora (ou o equivalente da altura) de nome: “(T)ransportes de (E)speciarias (A)siaticas” que deu TEA.
    O ingleses também dizem “cha” (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/cha) mas nunca os ouvi dizer.

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  5. Hi.

    In tamil தேநீர் thenīr (nīr = water) “theyilai” means “tea leaf” (ilai=leaf).

    Thanks for a nice artcle.

  6. You’ve got it in one. Couldn’t have put it bteter.

  7. Thank you all for the nice comments!