• samovar •
sæm-ê-vahr • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: A metal urn, usually made of copper, fired by a charcoal compartment that runs up the middle of it, ending in a chimney. Samovars are used in Russia, Persia, and Turkey to boil water for tea. Some samovars come with a metal teapot that may be seated at the top of the chimney. The teapot contains extremely strong tea, called zavarka. Each user pours a bit of this brew into their cup then adds as much hot water as they need to bring the tea down to a strength that suits their taste. Russians often sweeten their tea with fruit preserves.
Notes: Tula, Russia, has a reputation for producing the best samovars, though the demand for them has been sinking since the introduction of electricity. Russians love to gather in someone's courtyard or the veranda of a dacha (house in the country) and "set" the samovar. Often they add pinecones, pine needles, or flowers to the charcoal to add a redolence to the smoke.
In Play: Today's Good Word doesn't lend itself to metaphorical usage, so our examples today will use the word literally: "When Dusty Rhodes found himself in Tula, Russia, he bought himself an authentic Russian samovar." Samovars make eye-catching home accessories. My wife and I have a genuine fake made in Turkey, stamped "Made in Tula", misspelled in Russian.
Word History: Today's Good Word is a transliteration from the Cyrilllic alphabet, samovar, which in Russian means literally "self-boiler". This is a compound noun comprising sam "self" + o, a compounding element + varit' "to boil". Sam comes from a Proto-Indo-European word that probably meant "one", for it turns up in Latin as semper "once and for all, always" and similis "like, similar", and English (one and the) same. Variti comes from a PIE word that apparently meant "burn", for it turns up in Germanic languages as German warmen and English warm. But Etymonline suggests that it may be simply a folk etymology from the Tatar word sanabar "tea-urn". The samovar was probably introduced to the Russians by Tatar tribes living in the Urals. (David McWethy, King of Garage Sales in Fayetteville, Arkansas, is the tea-drinker who suggested today's Good Word.)