I've stumbled upon a thesaurus entry for the word "ink" that connects it to various words to describe coffee or caffeine, none of which I have -ever- heard in my life! I'm a coffee-drinker, I'm American, I live in New York, and I've heard a lot of people talk about coffee and never once use the word ink to describe it... Scanning the first page of Google results provides no information on this.

My assumption, given that other online thesauruses have no mention of this coffee connection, is that this is just a mistake on Thesaurus.com, but I'm hoping it's either something antiquated and archaic, or some kind of inside joke put in Roget's 21st Century Thesaurus (the cited source according to Thesaurus.com)

Any insights?

Thesaurus.com result for "ink"...

  • 1
    "Other thesauruses don't mention it" – WordHippo does. Jan 16, 2023 at 16:44
  • 1
    Also, see: thesaurus.plus/related/coffee/ink | the second entry on the right column: "Coffee and ink are semantically related. Sometimes you can replace term "Coffee" with "Ink", this [sic] nouns are similar." | note the typo; the rest of the page is also a bit iffy. It's possible that thesaurus.com's algorithm found it mistakenly. Jan 16, 2023 at 16:45
  • 1
    I’m voting to close this question because it's asking about complete garbage showing on a defective thesaurus web page. The line underneath the 'head' word INK initially says "as in coffee". Shift it along to any of the other "as in" categories (infamousness, mark, notoriety, notoriousness, publicity,...) to see even more ridiculous "synonyms". That website would appear to be totally worthless. Jan 16, 2023 at 18:22
  • 1
    @FumbleFingers: It's true that the entry is really awful, but the website is Thesaurus.com, which is (I think) the most reputable online thesaurus. Jan 16, 2023 at 18:35
  • 2
    @FumbleFingers this Dictionary.com LLC isn't Roget's 21st Century Thesaurus as claimed. Wikipedia states: The name "Roget" is trademarked in parts of the world, such as the United Kingdom. By itself, it is not protected in the United States, where use of the name "Roget" in the title of a thesaurus does not necessarily indicate any relationship to Roget directly; it has come to be seen as a generic thesaurus name. Jan 16, 2023 at 19:51

1 Answer 1


Yes, that seems to be the case. Green’s Dictionary of Slang gives as the 5th meaning of the noun ink:

strong, bitter coffee.

Then it quotes C. Samolar ‘Argot of the Vagabond’ (1927):

Other names for coffee are ink, mud, alkali and embalming fluid.

Although, it was said in the comments, I will just include WordHippo's entry here, which I had found simultaneously. I find it quite peculiar that Word Hippo does not list it as slang, and gives quite a technical definition to it:

A beverage made by infusing the beans of the coffee plant in hot water.

Enjoyjava lists ink under nicknames and slang, or synonyms of coffee. Easytoespresso even explains that

Not surprisingly, black coffee nicknames often come from its similarity in appearance to oily or dirty liquids:

Worm dirt.

  • Might be worth giving that to OED, who don't mention coffee at all (but do mention red ink as referring to red wine).
    – Andrew Leach
    Jan 16, 2023 at 16:45
  • Coffee has even been used as ink. Jan 16, 2023 at 17:08
  • 5
    This does prove that this usage can be found somewhere (and so rules out the OP's suspicion that its being listed in one thesaurus was a mistake), but one can't help wanting to know more: what kind of slang does this usage belong to? In what social circles would it be readily understood? Is it current or obsolete? The OP is probably far from being alone in having never heard it in the wild.
    – jsw29
    Jan 16, 2023 at 17:52
  • @jsw29: It was listed in 1927 in some long-forgotten publication Argot of the Hobo (the name hardly inspires confidence! :) Jan 16, 2023 at 20:34
  • 1
    @WeatherVane It's been used as ink, though likely more often accidentally than intentionally!
    – Hearth
    Jan 17, 2023 at 3:11

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.