The Spanish word cubeta has meanings that include ‘bucket, cask’ and ‘tray,’ particularly the kind of ‘ice tray’ found in the freezer compartment of a refrigerator and the kinds of trays used to hold chemicals. Cubeta is a diminutive of the cuba ‘tub, barrel, vat’ that had changed little from the Latin cūpa that likewise meant ‘tub, cask.’ Whether cūpa generated the Late Latin cuppa that Spanish has turned into copa and English into cup is possible but not universally accepted. What isn’t in doubt is that Spanish cubeta has as its cognate the French cuvette that English borrowed in the sense of ‘a tube or vessel used in laboratory experiments.’ Another diminutive tracing back to Latin cūpa is the dome-shaped cúpula/cupola that sits atop some buildings.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. shoreacres
    Feb 02, 2019 @ 07:15:01

    I have a friend in Charleston, South Carolina who’s given to referring to a cup of coffee or tea with the same word I see used in some British blogs and fiction: ‘cuppa.’ It could be a lazy way of saying ‘cup of,’ but I don’t think it is, particularly since the word stands alone and isn’t followed by ‘coffee’ or ‘tea.’ It was interesting to see the relationship between ‘cup’ and late Latin cuppa, however that word made it into their speech.


  2. Maria
    Feb 10, 2019 @ 07:27:31

    Las ‘cubetas’ de hielo are now slowly becoming obsolete, because of in-door ice makers of modern refrigerators. Some smaller fridges still don’t have the ice maker option, and I prefer those because it’s something less to worry about.


  3. Steve Schwartzman
    Feb 10, 2019 @ 07:54:52

    That’s for sure: the more complicated a device gets, the more things there are that can break.


  4. Trackback: Amigos lingüísticos en la red (XI) | morforetem

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©2011–2018 Steven Schwartzman

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