from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A metal urn with a spigot, used to boil water for tea and traditionally having a chimney and heated by coals.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun A copper urn used in Russia, Siberia, Mongolia, and elsewhere, in which water is kept boiling for use when required for making tea, live charcoal being placed in a tube which passes up through the center of the urn. Similar vessels are used in winter in northern China, for keeping soups, etc., hot at table.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun A metal urn used in Russia for making tea. It is filled with water, which is heated by charcoal placed in a pipe, with chimney attached, which passes through the urn.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun A metal urn with a spigot, for boiling water for making tea. Traditionally, the water is heated by hot coals or charcoal in a chimney-like tube which runs through the center of the urn. Today, it is more likely that the water is heated by an electric coil. It is a common misconception that tea is boiled in the samovar. This is not the case. The samovar merely boils the water, which is drawn off via the spigot into a separate teapot in which the tea is allowed to steep.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun a metal urn with a spigot at the base; used in Russia to boil water for tea


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

[Russian : samo, self; see sem- in Indo-European roots + varit', to boil.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Russian самовар (samovár, "self-boiler"); from само ("self") + варить (""to boil" or "to cook"")


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  • She turned to me and explained, “A samovar is a Russian urn.”

    Teddy Roosevelt and the Treasure of Ursa Major Kennedy Center 2008

  • She turned to me and explained, “A samovar is a Russian urn.”

    Teddy Roosevelt and the Treasure of Ursa Major Kennedy Center 2008

  • She turned to me and explained, “A samovar is a Russian urn.”

    Teddy Roosevelt and the Treasure of Ursa Major Kennedy Center 2008

  • The samovar was most welcome, and in fact the samovar is the most essential thing in Russia, especially at times of particularly awful, sudden, and eccentric catastrophes and misfortunes; even the mother was induced to drink two cups — though, of course, only with much urging and almost compulsion.

    A Raw Youth 2003

  • Their route took them away from the Neva, where was the greatest crowd, and they soon reached the entrance of the pleasure-garden, climbed the great flight of wooden stairs to the pavilion on top, where Ivan hired a sled, and paid for a glass of tea hot from the big brass samovar, which is always boiling and ready for use.

    Harper's Young People, December 9, 1879 An Illustrated Weekly Various

  • The samovar is a little one, and before the visitors have drunk all the tea they want, she has to heat it five times.

    The Cook's Wedding and Other Stories Anton Pavlovich Chekhov 1882

  • A huge, steaming tea-urn, called a samovar -- etymologically, a "self-boiler" -- will be brought in, and you will make your tea according to your taste.

    Russia Donald Mackenzie Wallace 1880

  • The samovar is a simple but brilliant way of preparing tea, as well as being a source of cultural pride.

    EuropeUpClose 2010

  • He would offer him bread and salt, the burning charcoal would be put into the "samovar," and he would be made quite at home.

    Michael Strogoff : or the Courier of the Czar 1911

  • He would offer him bread and salt, the burning charcoal would be put into the "samovar," and he would be made quite at home.

    Michael Strogoff Or, The Courier of the Czar Jules Verne 1866


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  • "I will bleed your heart through a samovar soon"

    ~ the decemberists

    March 29, 2009

  • Toufer: *Complaining to Liz* Surely our massive conglomerate parent company could spring for a samovar of coffee.

    Frank: Yeah, or, like, a big coffee dispenser!

    Toufer: *Condescendingly* That's what a samovar is.

    Frank: Are there other black nerds, or is it just you and Urkel?

    *Toofer just stares at Frank*

    30 Rock, via

    March 30, 2009

  • Samovars dispensing coffee? I think not. Traditional Russians make their coffee the Turkish way, in a little pot over a flame. Samovars are used only for tea.

    March 30, 2009

  • funny quotes should be met with a lawl, not pedantry. Well, it's fitting, I hear that Russians have a different brand of humor than most.

    March 30, 2009

  • I value rolig's contribution to this page, and to any and all Wordie pages.

    March 30, 2009

  • We all do. Moreover, I've never seen anyone have coffee with lawl, but many with pedantry. I prefer to have it with my friends.

    March 30, 2009

  • I've seen a samovar of coffee, in Russia. It served coffee in the canteen at my language school in Karelia. It was less far less elegant than its tea counterpart and was labelled Coffee whereas the tea one was not, perhaps in line with the assumption of which rolig speaks.

    March 30, 2009

  • I like to think of the self-service soda fountains at Burger King as samovars.

    March 30, 2009

  • It was a valid point, I was just being sarcastic.

    Borrowed words have a way of getting either under- or over-generalized (to make a generalization :p).

    March 30, 2009

  • I have a sizeable samovar on my huge desk.

    March 30, 2009

  • Jokes are fine, and I know that words change meanings as they migrate. I just hadn't realized samovar had turned into a generalized hot-beverage dispenser. Many borrowings, and samovar is one of them retain their foreignness. I may be out of it, but I find it hard to think of anything as a samovar, except facetiously, unless it is more or less directly associated with the Russian samovar. If there is humor for me in the excerpt John cited (and 30 Rock has not yet reached my Central European hideaway, so I am not familiar with any of the characters), then it is that Toufer himself doesn't know what a samovar is, though he smugly thinks he does. I suspect, however, that the intention was simply to show Toufer's nerdishness in using unusual words. In this case "samovar" actually means "a word only elitists or eggheads use." Which would be OK if the elitist/egghead used it correctly. But this is the kind of faux populism I hate about TV writing, because they usually get it wrong. The other day, for example, in some TV drama, someone who was supposed to be a born-again Christian said something like: "Jesus said" followed by a familar quotation from one of Paul's letters (e.g. "It is more blessed to give than to receive"). A born-again Christian would know this came from Paul and not from Jesus speaking in the Gospels. But the lazy-ass TV writers couldn't be bothered to look it up because they don't really care about accuracy or even about what born-again Christians would really say; they just want a snappy line.

    Sorry for the digression. And thanks, Sionnach and Reesetee, for the vote of support.

    March 30, 2009

  • Rolig, +1 on the show of support, your conversation and contributions are valued and enjoyed.

    This is all in fun, right? Wordie is the house the pedantry built :-) If you can't argue/discuss/dissect the nuances of a word here, where can you?

    Whatever the meaning of "samovar" (and it's allowed to have more than one, I think, and slightly different ones in different places; that's how words work), part of the 30 Rock joke is indeed that Toufer is himself a pedant. (*shoots joke in head by pedantically explaining it*)

    But I think I have a solution to this all. Samovars used for anything other than tea should be called Son of Samovars.

    March 31, 2009

  • Excellent suggestion. And rolig, I too greatly enjoy your Wordie contributions. :-)

    March 31, 2009

  • I had to read this page about six times before I could detect what you all were talking about. I do love "Son of Samovar" though. And this word makes me think of hot, sweet, wonderful tea, no matter how it's used. :)

    March 31, 2009

  • Thanks, all. And John's "Son of Samovar" is deliciously psychopathic enough to deserve its own page. John, nobody is listing Son of Samovar. Why don't you?

    March 31, 2009

  • I have a nice samovar on the porch. It only serves iced tea, though. No flames, with all that wicker, you know...

    March 31, 2009

  • Dontcry, I'm glad it's not ice tea.

    January 5, 2012