• canapé •
Pronunciation: kæn-ê-pay • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A couch, sofa, divan, settee, chesterfield. 2. An appetizer made of small pieces of toast or crackers overlaid with a tasty relish of cheese, meat, or the like.
Notes: The accent over the [é] is optional, though it shows that accent falls on the final syllable, as in French, and that the word is not pronounced [kê-nayp], the typical English pronunciation. The plural is canapés and there are no other related words.
In Play: Most often this word is used to refer to food: "Matilda served her guests a fetching tray of canapés with tiny dollops of various meat and fish by-products." But don't forget that canapé also belongs to that long list of English words referring to sofas: "Gloria, dripping in slithery fabrics and far too much jewelry, was appetizingly arrayed across a Louis XV canapé." Doesn't Gloria seem absolutely delicious? She will enjoy singular success if only she does not drop her canapé on the canapé.
Word History: What do mosquitoes have to do with hors d'oeuvres? Just ask your neighborhood etymologist! Today's word is French canapé, which originally meant "a (canopied) couch." This word descended from Medieval Latin canapeum "mosquito-net, tent, pavilion", also the source of English canopy. The Latin word was borrowed from Greek konopeon, an Egyptian bed with mosquito netting, from konops "a gnat, mosquito". This word was originally a compound meaning "cone-faced", based on konos "a cone" + ops "face, eye" (also in optic). How did the word for a sofa transfer to an hors d'oeuvre? Apparently, French chefs of the 17th century saw a similarity in such visuals as the second example above in "In Play".