What Does Cup of Joe Mean?

Cup of Joe Meaning

Definition: A cup of coffee.

Origin of Cup of Joe

The origin of this expression is contested. However, it is known that it first started appearing in written texts around the early 1930s. Most etymologists believe that this expression may have started out as cup of java.

This would make sense because java is another word for coffee. Over time, this may have shortened into cup of joe. There was also another expression, cup of jamoke. Jamoke originally meant java and mocha. This, too, could have easily been shortened into cup of joe.

Examples of Cup of Joe

what is a cup of joeIn this example, two friends are discussing what they did over the weekend, but one of them wants to wait to hear the other’s story until he is more awake.

Neha: You’ll never guess what happened to me this weekend.

Tyrese: I bet you’re right. And I want to hear all about it. But, before you start, just let me make myself a cup of Joe.

Neha: Why? I can tell you while you wait for it to be finished.

Tyrese: If I don’t drink it first, I won’t remember anything you say.

acupofjoIn this example, the idiom is used in a discussion between two coworkers who see each other while entering their office.

Barry: Finally, I made it here!

Rachel: Yeah, this is pretty late for you! Aren’t you supposed to be here at 8? It’s already 9!

Barry: I know, I know. I’m running late because the coffee shop that I always go to had a crazy long line this morning!

Rachel: Well, I guess if you have to have your cup of Joe, you had no other option.

More Examples

In this example, the idiom is used in an article about learning how to precisely describe coffee.

  • For years, coffee savants have been pursuing the consummate cup of joe. –Wall Street Journal

The idiom is used below in an article about the cost of commercial products on the environment.

  • The cup of joe that helped you get through the morning, the must-have chair purchased at that trendy furniture store and the palm oil that’s key to a favorite family recipe all have elements ripped from the habitat of a threatened or endangered animal somewhere in the world. –Washington Post


The phrase cup of Joe is a synonym for coffee that is used most often in informal situations.