Worldwide, "caipirinha" is probably one of the most well-known words of Brazilian Portuguese, right up there with "bossa nova", "samba" and "futebol". But what does it mean, exactly, other than being the name of a absolutely delicious cocktail?
The word "caipirinha" is the diminuitive form of the word "caipira". Brazilian Portuguese uses many diminuitives, generally in a friendly and affectionate way (sort of like calling your partner or spouse "baby"). The word caipira refers to a person from the backcountry, someone who isn't citified or sophisticated. The best translation in English is "hillbilly" or "hick". So a caipirinha is, in effect, a "little hillbilly".
Today the word is used so much more with the sense of the cocktail, that probably very few Brazilians even pause to think that they're ordering a "little hillbilly" when they ask the waiter for a caipirinha. They just want to get their hands on a nice cold drink!