Word Of The Month


David Zapatka

Friend and reader Connie Wilkinson writes, “I came across something I thought interesting while reading a book The Sugar Barons, by Matthew Parker, about the sugar trade during colonial times in the Caribbean. I always thought ‘toking’ had to do with marijuana, but apparently the word ‘toping’ meant to drink an alcoholic drink around 1650. I wonder if there is any connection.”

Toke verb ˈtōk to puff on a marijuana cigarette or pipe. First known use – 1968

Etymology – American Spanish toque, from Spanish touch, test, from tocar to touch

Tope verb  ˈtōp  to drink liquor to excess. First known use – 1664

Etymology – Archaic English used to wish others good health before drinking

Both words can be used as nouns. Someone may take or accept a toke or a tope.

Toke used is a sentence:

Nationwide, cities in the eight states that have legalized pot are debating whether customers should be allowed to toke up outside of private residences or clubs. — Kurtis Lee, Anchorage Daily News, “A marijuana edible and a cup of coffee? That soon could happen in Denver,” 10 Jan. 2018

When California legalized recreational pot, the warnings came: Don’t toke and drive. — latimes.com, “Today: How the Austin Bomber Was Caught,” 22 Mar. 2018

Tope used in a sentence:

She toped into the wee hours of the night before realizing it was too late.

Interestingly, the use of the archaic English verb, tope, is making a comeback in modern American slang. It is short for isotoping, the act of illegally enriching uranium, often with the goal of selling it to terrorist countries. It is also now a slang phrase with similarities to the archaic English meaning Connie pointed out. When talking about drug use, young people brag to each other about how much nuclear material they “toped” the night before. It shows up in hip hop music in conjunction with the word “crunk,” a combination of the words “crazy” and “drunk.”

Tope can also be used as a noun meaning a stupa which is a dome-shaped structure, usually a mound, serving as a Buddhist shrine.

The Spanish noun toque is a type of hat with a narrow brim or no brim at all. These hats were popular in Europe in the 13th – 16th centuries and were revived in the 1930s primarily as traditional headgear for professional cooks except in Canada where the term is used primarily for knit caps. Today a toque is known as a hard-type hat or helmet worn for riding especially in equestrian sports. They are frequently covered with black velvet.

Whether you toke or tope, have toured a tope or have ever worn a toque, please share your experience with our readers and submit any thoughts on this month’s column or any word you may like to share along with your insights and comments to  [email protected].