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Estonian jootraha ‘tip’



In most countries a tip or gratuity (Est. ‘jootraha’) is an extra amount of money given to someone as a reward for good service. Usually the sum is small and goes straight to the attendant (waiter, taxi driver, hairdresser). In Estonian the word (in the form of yotoraa) was first recorded in the 16th century and is a loan translation from Low German (cf. drink-, drinke-gelt ‘Trinkgeld’). Initially the word was used in the sense of a sacrifice (drink offering) to house fairies, but later it acquired the meaning of extra money given to the attendant for buying himself a drink. As beer was a customary drink at that time, we may very well call the extra allowance beer money.

The Low German loan translation jooduraha can be related to an earlier Estonian word joot (Pl. usu. joodud) that meant offering food and drink to guests on some family occasion (christening, wedding) or celebrating the completion of a major work (e.g. the building of a boat or a windmill). We can find examples in the folk tradition that jootu joodi (‘a drink was had’) also to ensure the success of a forthcoming undertaking (seal hunting, letting the cattle out for the first time in spring). By the 19th century the word jooduraha had basically acquired the meaning of a reward to someone (errand boy, postman, coachman) in return for a service. The word jootraha first appeared in dictionaries in 1917. Today (young) Estonians often use the word tipp (< English tip) instead of jootraha.