• tureen •
tê-reen • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A deep covered serving dish for soup. 2. A smaller vessel of the same general description for gravy or sauce.
Notes: Here is a word that is going out of style because the object it refers to is going out of style. It is a lovely word, though, so I think the meaning should migrate to any serving dish just to preserve it. The alternate spellings, terrine and turine, suggest it was never fully anchored in the language.
In Play: Tureens come in wondrous designs and decorations: "Lydia Potts serves her most delicious soups from a gorgeous Spode Italian tureen." You would think only pleasure would emerge from such a vessel: "The divorce proceedings hinged on whether, when Henry criticized of his wife's meals one time too many, she threw a tureen of hot soup at him."
Word History: This is a misspelling of French terrine "earthen vessel" from Old French therine, the noun from terrin "earthen". The "uh" pronunciation in the first syllable gives us no hint of this word's actual spelling. Terrin is what French did with Latin terrenus "earthen". Terrenus is the adjective from terra "earth", as in Mediterranean "middle Earth". English borrowed several words from Latin containing terra, not the least of which was the phrase terra firma, but also terraine, terrace, turmeric, and pied-a-terre. Terra is the Latin reflex of the Proto-Indo-European word ters- "to dry", which arrived in English as thirst via its Germanic ancestors.
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