What is the meaning of the word Thée in the attached picture? Is it German?

enter image description here

Here is whole photo and in context of book.

enter image description here

Here is the cover of the book from where the above photos were taken:

enter image description here

  • 6
    The only real German word in the picture is "und" ;)
    – Carsten S
    Dec 12, 2018 at 11:58
  • 5
    I am not a native German speaker and even the dialects of the today are cryptically hard for me to understand, but I think it one doesn't need to be an archeological linguest to understand: "cafee und thée" means "cofee and tee" here...
    – peterh
    Dec 12, 2018 at 12:28
  • 1
    – ardila
    Dec 12, 2018 at 12:29
  • 4
    @JonathanMuse Could you please edit your post and add the source of your picture?
    – Arsak
    Dec 12, 2018 at 17:23
  • 1
    @Marzipanherz I’m still working on this. It’s out of a book at my in-laws house, and I will be there Christmas. The book is called “how to make coffee” or something. Dec 15, 2018 at 3:10

5 Answers 5


Not until recently (in language history terms) the German spelling of tea indeed was


It is listed in old dictionaries, and was use by Goethe and Schiller too. The accent was unusual even then and may have come from the artist's inspiration.

  • I doubt that the accent on the last e in cafeé has ever been common either.
    – jarnbjo
    Dec 12, 2018 at 13:25
  • @jarnbjo: da bin ich völlig deiner Meinung :)
    – Takkat
    Dec 12, 2018 at 14:11
  • 1
    To get an idea of until recently: in the 1894/1896 Brockhaus Thee was still the correct spelling.
    – guidot
    Dec 12, 2018 at 15:17

It's tea, in an old-fashioned spelling. Nowadays it would be der Tee. The acute accent suggests the spelling is French.

  • 2
    We still write "thee" in Dutch (but without "accent aigu"). Dec 12, 2018 at 22:00

The clothing style suggests that this picture was drawn way more than 100 years ago. At the time, it was overwhelmingly common for German to be written in blackletter typefaces but other languages, especially Latin, were written in antiqua typefaces. The picture nicely displays both: note how the letter style of the und is completely different from that in Cafeé, Thée and Logia. The first is written in blackletter while the others are in antiqua.

This already tells us that the author considered all words except und to be inherently non-German. (While typographic standards were probably not as strict then as they are now this is the most logical way to explain the two styles.) Furthermore, an accent is not an original German diacritic which further strengthens the case of Cafeé and Thée being considered foreign.

They were probably considered French (on the balance of probabilities) even though the accent placement in Cafeé is one I never came across and I am unsure whether it ever was correct in French.

  • 3
    .....more than 200 years....
    – fdb
    Dec 12, 2018 at 17:35
  • @fdb 200 > 100, also passt?
    – Jan
    Dec 13, 2018 at 4:32
  • Der erste Duden erschien aber vor über und weniger als 200 Jahren, daher ist diese Feststellung durchaus bedeutsam. > 1000 Jahre wäre auch > 100, aber "at that time" passt dann nicht mehr. Von wann bis wann war denn Antiqua für Latein üblich - Du kennst Dich da ja scheinbar aus? Dec 15, 2018 at 21:44

Well, Jonathan, your question "Is it German?" can be answered with YES when it's about intelligibility, communicativeness, and conventions from quite some time ago, and it must be NO when it's about today's spelling rules.

The "picture" shows both renaissance and baroque elements. They are conspicuous. We may thus suppose early to mid 17th century. Christian G.'s " from mid 17th century" is therefore either close or right.

In Chri­stoph Adelung. Grammatisch-kritisches Wörterbuch der Hochdeutschen Mundart (1774-86), the principle still was: "Schrei­be, wie du sprichst." (Write as you talk). This is what the 'artist' did about 150 years earlier.

Rechtschreibung (German spelling rules) as we apply it today is the invention of a school teacher, Konrad Duden. The first 'Duden' was published in 1880. It is consequently a severe misconception when David R. talks about "spell[ing] every word wrong except the und" in a picture that's about 250 years older.

As to the artist's way of spelling: He evidently somehow knew the pronunciation and spelling of French café and thé, and in a - what we now call - 'creative process', free of any spelling rules, wrote cafeé and thée, a mixture of French and phonetic spelling. Today's Swedish uses the same principle for the spelling of borrowed French words. The 'artist's' LOGIA rather seems to imitate Italian, but I can't say more as I do not know how loggia was or could be spelled centuries ago.

All of this leads us to a YES and a NO with equal rights.

  • 4
    This is mainly a comment to another post, which might get edited or deleted, rendering this one useless. Better you split the part, which might count as an answer, and post the rest as a comment. Dec 15, 2018 at 22:08

It looks like the artist got confused but there is some basis for this confusion. Firstly these were exotic novelties so no one would be sure of spelling, pronunciation or gender.

Secondly German ee and French é are pronounced very roughly the same so these could be hybrids. To put it another way the second e would help a German pronounce them even if they did not understand the use of accents in French.

Thirdly the second e in French makes these words look more feminine so these spellings might be seen plausible if the gender had not been agreed (in either French or German).

But the eé shows a lack of knowledge of French so my best guess is that the artist simply spelt them in German as Cafee and Thee (before the spellings of these words had been standardized and before th had been replaced by t and c by k) and that they added the accents to make them look more French or at least more foreign - for all we know it is an attempt at Italian as Italian has accents and Loggia is usually regarded as Italian. We also know the spelling is not very good as Loggia has double g in Italian, French, German and English.

  • 1
    The artist definitely was not confused. He just used French words that were totally common in the respective parts of society - namely those who could afford novelty luxury goods: tea and coffee. Dec 12, 2018 at 18:48
  • 2
    He was confused, @christiangeiselmann, because he managed to spell every word wrong except the und. Dec 12, 2018 at 21:29
  • 1
    @DavidRobinson Is your claim based on deep knowledge of the various spelling habits of French in 18 century central Europe? Or rather on ignorance of them? You will probably agree that French spelling in the 21st century might differ from French spelling in the 18th century? (A score for you, however, as I have to admit: the placement of the accent on the first than second é indeed looks less regular then expected.) Dec 12, 2018 at 22:39
  • 2
    @ChristianGeiselmann I have done enough general reading of French, including C18 French to recognize a bizarre spelling when I see one. ée only occurs in feminine participles and words that originally had two separate vowels (e.g. athée - atheist). In addition, several other people who have responded here have failed to find these spellings. To be on the safe side, La 4e édition (1762) du Dictionnaire de l'Académie française gives café and thé but not cafée, cafeé or thée. Dec 12, 2018 at 23:38
  • 2
    @ChristianGeiselmann However when I looked in the most modern one under café I found: CAFÉ n. m. xviie siècle, d'abord cauueh, cafeh. Emprunté, sans doute par l'intermédiaire de l'italien caveé, caffé, du turc qahve, lui-même de l'arabe qahwa. This is very interesting as it gives the early Italian form as caveé. This is not a modern spelling and I know nothing about C18 Italian spelling but it does suggest that cafeé could be an intermediate between caveé and the modern caffè. Dec 12, 2018 at 23:53

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.