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Q: I thought the name of the plant and the drink made from Ilex paraguariensis is "Yerba mate", not "Yerba maté." "Maté," in Spanish, means "I killed," while in Portuguese, it doesn't mean anything at all. How is it really spelled?

A: Seemingly reliable online documents list the plant as "yerba maté" and "yerba mate" interchangeably, generally favoring the inclusion of the accent. Online, there is the additional problem that representing non-English characters is often a little bit of a pain. Without a specific discussion of the accent inclusion or exclusion, one can't really assume a whole lot based on whether it is present.



One factor with the English spelling is that the non-accented pronunciation of a word spelled "mate" would be pronounced m-ae-t and there is already an English word "mate", meaning friend, companion. The accented ending e in English is probably to help differentiate it and aid pronunciation.



Some American and English online dictionary sources refer to the Spanish spelling as "mate", but generally the English spelling is listed as maté, with mate as a variant. Here is how it is listed in a sampling of English-language references:



Ott's Pharmacotheon:

Mate appears without the accent in the text; has the accented version in parentheses in the index after "mate".



American Heritage Dictionary (online edition), maté:

"American Spanish, from Quechua mate, hollow gourd used as a bowl or container for brewing yerba maté"



Merriam Webster (online edition), Main entry: maté, Variant: mate

"French & American Spanish; French maté, from American Spanish mate maté, vessel for drinking it, from Quechua mati vessel"



Oxford English Dictionary (online edition):

"A bitter infusion made from maté leaves, drunk as a stimulant for its high caffeine content. Also called Paraguay tea."



In a sample of non-English dictionaries, the Real Academia Española Dictionary (Spanish) and the Dicionário Botânico of the Instituto Superior de Agronomia, Universidade Técnica de Lisboa (Portuguese) both refer to "mate" [no accent].



To sum up, we consider both spellings as correct; the user's preference may lie in his or her native language or personal sense of "correct" style of derivation from the etymological root.





Additional References:

Real Academia Española Dictionary (Spanish)


Dicionário Botânico (Portuguese)

Asked By : David
Answered By : Spoon [ed]
Published Date : 7 / 20 / 2005
Last Edited Date : 5 / 15 / 2006
Question ID : 3092

Categories: [ Yerba Mate ] [ Slang ]



Ask Erowid v1.7 - Jul, 2005

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