Barista setting the bar for coffee

Barista (not to be confused with barrister) is a recent English word for the coffee machine jockey who makes the coffee in your local cafe. It is the equivalent of a bartender but making coffee rather than alcoholic drinks. Barista has been in English only since 1992. It is, of course, borrowed from the Italian. However Italian took “bar” from English before it gave back barista.

The English suffix, –ist, is borrowed from French, although originally from Latin and before that Greek. It is used to show that a person is either a follower of a principle or system of belief, a member of a profession, or a user of a particular tool or object. We have

  • professions: scientists (chemists, physicists, zoologists etc), receptionists, hairstylists, dentists
  • believers: fascists, capitalists, methodists, racists, egoists, ideologists
  • users: lutists, pianists, cyclists, machinists, and even satirists

There are hundreds of them!

English prefers the –ist form although it uses the –ista form in more ironic senses. The use of fashionista, for those fanatical followers of fashion is also a recent English word from the early mid-1990s. It was coined as a metaphor comparing fanatical fashion people with Latin-American revolutionary movements such as the Sandinistas.

Fashionista has spurned a few neologisms (new words) which are used humourously, such as

  • kitchenista, an accomplished cook who can cook up just about anything in their kitchen,
  • Googleista, a person who loves Google, and every product and service that Google makes available to the public
  • frugalista, a thrift shopper who will stop at nothing to get a bargain, including trampling store eimployees to death
  • burritoista, a person trained in the art of preparing and serving burritos (this is a comic reference to barista)

But barista is unique in that the individual isn’t a lover of bars, nor a user of bars, nor even a maker of bars but a maker of coffee. Perhaps a more accurate word for the profession would have been coffeeista or perhaps even expressoista. However, barista is here to stay.