The botanical name for the tree that produces cacao beans is Theobroma Cacao—from the Latin Theobroma—literally “food of the gods”, and Cacao—a Nahuatl-derived Spanish word.
The American English pronunciation of “cacao” is kuh-KOW, from the original version kuh-KAH-oh. The common British pronunciation is kuh-KAH-oo.
The Aztecs believed that cacao seeds were the gift of Quetzalcoatl, the God of wisdom, and the seeds had so much value they were used as a form of currency and revered for their medicinal qualities for centuries.
The more frequently used word, cocoa, is widely believed to have its origins in a spelling mistake—possibly made by a British import agent in the 17th century.