[ e-spres-oh ]
/ ɛˈsprɛs oʊ /
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noun, plural es·pres·sos.
a strong coffee prepared by forcing live steam under pressure, or boiling water, through ground dark-roast coffee beans.
a cup of this coffee.


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Origin of espresso

1940–45; <Italian (caffè) espresso pressed (coffee)
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does espresso mean?

Espresso is a kind of strong coffee made by forcing steam or boiling water through ground, dark-roast coffee beans.

The word espresso often refers to a cup of espresso, as in I like to have an espresso after dinner.

It can also refer to an espresso machine, as in I got an espresso so now I can make my favorite drinks at home. 

Espresso is so strong that it’s usually served in a very small cup. Sometimes, people have a “shot” of espresso by itself or added to their coffee to make it stronger.

A cappuccino is espresso with foamed milk.

A somewhat common variant of espresso is expresso. More about that below.

Example: When it comes to coffee, I love espresso—the stronger the better!

Where does espresso come from?

The first records of the word espresso in English come from the 1940s. It comes from the Italian term caffè espresso, which literally means “pressed coffee.”

Espresso is relatively new to English, but its use (and consumption) has become widespread along with other coffee-related terms, such as cappuccino, latte, and mocha.

Sometimes, people pronounce espresso as expresso. This confusion over its pronunciation (and, subsequently, its spelling) probably dates back to the time when espresso started to become widespread in English. The variation from es to ex isn’t all that surprising—the Italian word espresso ultimately derives from the Latin verb exprimere, meaning “to press out.”

In English, the letter combination es is far less common than ex at the beginning of words. So for many English speakers, it feels more natural to pronounce the beginning of espresso as ex rather than es. This has probably been influenced by the word express, which is associated with speed, and the stimulating effects of espresso’s jolt of caffeine.

We know, we know—some people don’t think expresso is a “real word.” But this is how language works. In English, it isn’t all that unusual for variant spellings and pronunciations to become the standard over time. For example, the word bird comes from the Middle English term bryd. The word apron was originally napron, but changed due to the fact that saying a napron sounds a lot like an apron.

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What are some other forms related to espresso?

  • espressos (plural)
  • expresso (variant spelling)

What are some words that often get used in discussing espresso?

How is espresso used in real life?

People drink espresso for its strong flavor and its high caffeine content.



Try using espresso!

Is espresso used correctly in the following sentence?

You want to take a break and grab an espresso?

How to use espresso in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for espresso

/ (ɛˈsprɛsəʊ) /

noun plural -sos
strong coffee made by forcing steam or boiling water through ground coffee beans
an apparatus for making coffee in this way

Word Origin for espresso

C20: Italian, short for caffè espresso, literally: pressed coffee
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012