Why are Coasters Called Coasters?

Coasters are an essential part of everyday life, and they have a long and interesting history. There are many different theories about the origin of this word. In this article, we will explore only several of them and will try to make it clear for those who are interested in this topic.

The Use of Coasters Throughout History

There are many different types of coasters out there and they have a variety of purposes. While some people may use them strictly for decoration, others use them for more practical purposes.

The regular and usual coasters we know and use can be made from a variety of materials, including cork, glass, stone, or even metal. They can be round, square, or any other shape and can be simple or elaborate in design.

So, why are they called coasters? Did you ask yourself this question? The word “coaster” actually has a few different meanings. It can refer to a person or thing that returns or moves to the starting point, such as a roller coaster at an amusement park.

It can also refer to a tray or mat that is used under a glass of water or any other beverage. There are many theories about the origin of this word and in this article, we will explore the most popular ones to get you covered.

a porcelain cup of coffee and the drink coaster

The Origin of the Word Coaster and Drink Coaster

It's a common question, especially for people new to the world of drink coasters: why are they called coasters? The word "coaster" actually has a pretty interesting origin story. The first known use of the word "coaster" was in the early 1800s, and it was used to describe a person who worked on the coast, specifically someone who unloaded ships. Over time, the word started to be used more broadly to describe anyone who worked in the maritime industry. In the mid-19th century, the word started to be used to describe a small tray that was used to serve drinks. The tray was usually made of wood or metal, and it had a raised edge to keep the glasses with beverages.

The Earliest Use of the Word "Coaster"

There are many theories about where the word “coaster” comes from, but the most likely explanation is that it’s a corruption of the word “coast,” as in, to move along the coast.

In the early 1800s, when the word first appeared in print, it was used to describe a person who moved about the coast, looking for work.

This is one of many theories that explain the origin of this word. It wasn’t until the early 20th century that “coaster” began to be used to describe a small tray or plate on which drinks were served.

The Use of "Coaster" in the 15th Century

In the 15th century, the word "coaster" was used to describe a person who worked in a tavern or bar.

A "coaster" was someone who would carry drinks from the bar to the customers.

The Use of "Coaster" in the 19th Century

In the early 1800s, the word "coaster" was used to describe a person who transported goods by boat.

Also, the word "coaster" comes from the Dutch word "kustaert," which means “coast guard”.

The Use of "Coaster" in the 20th Century

In the early 20th century, "coaster" was also used as a slang term for a person who drinks alcohol to excess.

Today's coaster is a small, flat disc that is placed under a beverage to protect the surface of a table or counter from drips and condensation. This has been used till nowadays and we all know its meaning today.

What Were the First Drink Coasters Made of?

The first drink coasters were made of cork. That's right, the same material that is used to make wine stoppers and bulletin boards were once used to absorb moisture from glasses. Cork is an excellent material for coasters because it is absorbent and durable. However, it is also a bit brittle, so it can break if glasses are dropped on it. Later corks were made of wood.

Final Thoughts

The actual origins of the word "coaster" are unknown, but as you already know there are several theories. No matter which theory is correct, it's clear that coasters have been around for centuries and have been used for a variety of purposes.

Today, coasters are primarily used to protect furniture from water damage, but they can also be used as decorations or simply to keep your drinks cold.

a cold drink on a drink coaster

Commonly Asked Questions

Why are drink coasters called that?

The word "coaster" comes from the Middle English word "coastour" which was derived from the Old French word "coastre."

This word ultimately comes from the Latin word "constare" which means "to stand." This is likely in reference to how a coaster stands under a cup or glass to protect the surface below it.

Can I use my drink cup without a coaster?

Yes, you can use your drink cup without a coaster. However, coasters help to absorb condensation and prevent your cup from leaving a water ring on your table.

Are paper drink coasters durable?

They are not very durable. If you are using them for drinks that will be sitting for a while, like cocktails, it is best to use a thicker coaster.

Author - Fred Felton
Fred Felton          

Content Creator / Editor

Fred Felton is a copywriter, editor and social media specialist based in Durban, South Africa. He has over 20 years of experience in creating high end content. He has worked with some of the biggest brands in the world. Currently Fred specialises in the wooden arts and crafts space, focussing on innovative wooden product design. He is also a keynote speaker and has presented talks and workshops in South Africa.


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