• 2-minute read
  • 23rd May 2019

Word Choice: Espresso vs. Expresso

Like many proofreaders, we’re coffee powered. There’s nothing like a caffeine hit in the morning before a hard day of correcting grammar. But do we want an ‘espresso’ or an ‘expresso’? You might have seen both terms used in coffee shops. But which is correct? Let’s find out!

Espresso (Concentrated Coffee)

‘Espresso’ is an Italian loanword. You’ll already know what it means if you’re a coffee fan, but we’ll offer a quick explanation for any tea drinkers out there.

Mmmmm... coffee.
Mmmmm… coffee.

In short, ‘espresso’ comes from caffè espresso, which is Italian for ‘pressed out coffee’. This refers to the use of pressurised water to make a thick, strong coffee (or a base for other coffee drinks).

Expresso (No Longer a Typo?)

‘Expresso’ was long considered a misspelling of ‘espresso’. And some people still don’t like it. An honourable mention here goes to Cambridge Dictionary for being the only dictionary we could find that doesn’t even list ‘expresso’ as a non-standard spelling or a common error; we assume some editor there really cares about coffee and will not accept this ‘expresso’ nonsense.

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Say 'No' to 'expresso'.
Say ‘No’ to ‘expresso’.

However, most dictionaries now list ‘expresso’ as a variant spelling. And there are examples of people using it interchangeably with ‘espresso’ going back to 1945. As such, in practical terms, if you order an ‘expresso’ and an ‘espresso’ at the same time, you’ll end up with two of the same drink (and a confused barista). They are simply variant spellings.

Espresso or Expresso?

As explained above, these terms are largely interchangeable. ‘Expresso’ might have started out as an error, but many people now accept it as a variant spelling of ‘espresso’ in English.

Nevertheless, ‘espresso’ is still far more common in Australian English, and some people consider ‘expresso’ incorrect. So to ensure your writing is always error free, we suggest using ‘espresso’ in all cases.

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