• 2-minute read
  • 3rd August 2018

Word Choice: Espresso vs. Expresso

Like many proofreaders, we are powered by coffee. And there is nothing quite like a powerful hit of caffeine in the morning before you set about correcting grammar. But do we want an “espresso” or an “expresso”?

You might have seen both of these terms used in coffee shops. But is there a difference? And if not, which of these terms is correct? Let’s find out!

Espresso (Concentrated Coffee)

“Espresso” is a loanword from Italian. You’ll already know what it means if you’re a coffee fan, but we’ll offer a quick explanation in case we have any tea drinkers among our readers.

Mmmmm... coffee.
Mmmmm… coffee.

In short, “espresso” comes from caffè espresso, which is Italian for “pressed out coffee.” This refers to how an espresso is made, with pressurized water used to make thick, strong coffee. And as well as being a drink in its own right, espresso is also used as a base for other coffee drinks.

Expresso (No Longer a Typo)

Time for the big reveal! “Expresso” means… exactly the same as “espresso.” It is simply a variant spelling. This makes it a bit like “doughnut” and “donut” or “whiskey” and “whisky.” The main difference is that “expresso” started out as a common misspelling of “espresso.”

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This error may have caught on because we have more “ex-” words than “es-” words in English. Or it may just be because “espresso” looks a bit like “express” written down. Or it could even be a French influence since expresso has always been the correct spelling of this term over there. Whatever its origins, though, “expresso” is now so common that many dictionaries list it as a variant of “espresso.”

Espresso or Expresso?

As explained above, these terms are essentially interchangeable. “Expresso” started out as an error, but it has now been accepted as a variant spelling of “espresso” in English.

Nevertheless, “espresso” is still far more common (especially in American English) and many people consider “expresso” incorrect. So to be certain your writing is error free and/or to avoid upsetting pedantic baristas, we recommend sticking to the old “espresso” spelling!

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