Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A large table centerpiece consisting of a frame with extended arms or branches supporting holders, as for flowers, fruit, or sweetmeats.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A table centerpiece, usually made of silver, generally consisting of a central bowl with radiating dishes or holders.

Etymologies

Perhaps alteration of French épargne, a saving, from épargner, to save, from Old French espargnier, of Germanic origin.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
French (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • The epergne was a beautiful thing of crystal and gold, a celebrated work of art, regarded as an exquisite possession.

    T. Tembarom

  • "An epergne," Evans said, smiling at the extravagance of it.

    Amid the jumble, the story of Britain's age of silver

  • Other times, it is merely the exact word for a thing that sticks in the mind: instead of using the word “centerpiece,” one might say “epergne.”

    Tourbillon : Ange Mlinko : Harriet the Blog : The Poetry Foundation

  • A pair of candelabra stood either side of the epergne, their light setting the five or six crystal decanters and the silver serving dishes aglitter.

    Soul

  • Set defiantly in the center of the jacquard tablecloth was a heavy, flamboyantly molded silver epergne, its stand supported by two Rubens-like female figures.

    Soul

  • Cheapside, having invested some money in two desks, several pairs of richly-plated candlesticks, a dinner epergne, and a bagatelle-board.

    The History of Pendennis

  • The dinner epergne remained at chambers, and figured at the banquets there, which the Colonel gave pretty freely.

    The History of Pendennis

  • “It is not such a dinner as you have seen at her house, with six side-dishes, two flanks, that splendid epergne, and the silver dishes top and bottom; but such as my Rosa has she offers with a willing heart,” cries the Campaigner.

    The Newcomes

  • But the dining hall, with its mahogany-lined walls and long refectory table, was empty, the epergne of roses in the centre the only sign of life.

    Stay Through The Night

  • They exactly resemble the finest work in frosted silver, the curve of their globular mass of leaves is perfect; and one thinks of them rather as the base of an epergne for an imperial table, or as a prize at Ascot or Goodwood, than as anything organic.

    The Hawaiian Archipelago

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  • "Czech pewterers mend pewter kettles; then the street sellers sell these mended vessels: ewers, cressets (even epergnes)."
    Eunoia by Christian Bök (upgraded edition), p 104

    May 23, 2010

  • "Jenny's bookshelf, battered and scarred from the last incursion of Redcoats, three months ago. The big silver epergne. That was slightly dented, but had been too heavy to fit into a soldier's knapsack, and so had escaped the pilfering of smaller objects."
    —Diana Gabaldon, Voyager (NY: Dell, 1994), 67

    January 14, 2010

  • "...each fishing in strict turn and calling or even shrieking out the name of the catch—sauce tureen, small ladle, large ladle, side-dish, cover, a monstrous epergne and so down to the scores of plates, big and little—until the tables overflowed..."
    --Patrick O'Brian, The Letter of Marque, 130

    February 29, 2008

  • Enter: two rivers, gracefully bearing
    countless little pellucid jellies
    in cut-glass epergnes dragging with silver chains.
    – Elizabeth Bishop, "Invitation to Miss Marianne Moore"

    October 10, 2007