Canapé - canopy

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Canapé and canopy are near-homophones - in careless or rushed speech they may be indistinguishable, with the stress on the first syllable and two shwa vowels following: 'CAN-erp-y', IPA: /ˈkæn ər pə/. More precisely, the last vowel of 'canapé is like that of 'say', /eɪ/, while that of 'canopy' is like the vowel of 'di', /ɪ/. Although their meanings are very different, they share a common root.

  • A canapé (sometimes written in English without the accent canape) is a small item of food, served as an appetizer, usually with (alcoholic) drinks before diners sit down to a meal. Its basic form is that of a round of bread, toast, biscuit or other supporter with a savoury topping or morsel, small enough to be consumed in one or two mouthfuls. (It is always an error to write it as if it were a feminine adjective in French, canapée.)
  • A canopy, in English, is a cloth held over something as a protection against weather, sunlight or public display, etc. Canopies are found as 'ceilings' over four-poster beds; over altars, the UK sovereign during the Coronation, or the consecrated Host, in the sense of 'communion wafer', in a religious procession; a child's pram 'hood' can be called a canopy. Many figurative meanings follow: the upper levels of a forest, which protect the undergrowth; a marquee over a picnic or spectators on the sidelines of a game, etc; a projection acting as a sheltering covering, in- or out of doors, over a porch, window, choir stall, pulpit or stage, etc; the sky or heavens. The transparent covering over the cockpit of small aeroplanes is a canopy, as is the large expanse of cloth that provides the resistance to falling of a parachute.
Etymological note: OED gives the etymology of canopy as "French canapé (formerly also conopée masculine 'a canopie, tent, or pauilion' [sic], Cotgrave) = Spanish canapé, Portuguese canapé ‘couch, sofa’, Italian canopè (Diez), medieval Latin ‘canopeum, quod suspenditur super altare' ['which is hung over an altar'] (Du Cange), in classical Latin cōnōpēum, cōnōpeum, cōnōpium, 'net of fine gauze about the bed, mosquito curtains' (Lewis & Short), 'pavilion, tent, or bed with a tester' (Scheller), < Greek κωνωπεῖον ['kōnōpeion') 'an Egyptian bed or couch with mosquito curtains' (Lewis & Short), < κώνωψ ['kōnōps') gnat, mosquito. The English forms may have been partly from medieval Latin, and in English the sense has adhered to 'curtain or tester', while in the modern Romanic languages [AWE uses Romance languages] that of 'couch' or 'sofa' has prevailed.
The fundamental concept shared by modern English canapé and canopy is that of ancient Greek people trying to protect themselves against biting insects by surrounding a bed, couch or sofa etc with cloth which the insects will not penetrate. Hence the French canapé means 'sofa'. The food morsel is called after it as imagining the savoury morsel as a person sitting on the sofa of the supporting bread.