Grande, Venti & Trenta: What Do the Starbucks Names Literally Mean?

When you reflect on all the symbols, gestures, and phrases that bombard your everyday existence, you may find a panoply of simple words that are missing a definition. Case in point: how many times have you or a friend said “I’d like a venti latte” without pausing to consider what venti actually means?

First of all, here are the size options: tall (12 ounces), grande (16), venti (24), and trenta (31).

Let’s briefly address tall. This designation by the coffee company is considered by many to be a classic instance of corporate language manipulation. Tall sounds like small but means something close to the opposite. The result arguably encourages a consumer to think a little less about the size of his or her beverage as well as the size of the bill.

Grande is Italian for “large,” venti means “twenty,” and trenta is “thirty.” Why isn’t the 16-ounce size sedici (Italian for sixteen) instead? Perhaps because grande conjures associations with the English “grand.” Why not follow this logic and apply names that are evocative of English terms to the remaining two sizes? The less-familiar venti and trenta may help consumers forget the cost or calorie count of what they are about to drink.

Want to learn more about the lexicon of your morning cup of joe?

  • Unlock the poetic mystery of the origin of the word coffee here.
  • Who is the “Starbuck” that inspired the coffee chain’s name? We explore that here.