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

  • noun An evergreen shrub or small tree (Camellia sinensis) native to Asia, having fragrant, nodding, cup-shaped white flowers and glossy leaves.
  • noun The young, dried leaves of this plant, prepared by various processes and used to make a beverage, usually served hot.
  • noun An aromatic, slightly bitter beverage made by steeping tea leaves in boiling water.
  • noun Any of various plants, such as New Jersey tea, having leaves that are or were formerly used to make a tealike beverage.
  • noun Any of various beverages made by steeping the leaves of certain plants, such as peppermint.
  • noun Any of various beverages made by extracting an infusion from meat, especially beef.
  • noun A tea rose.
  • noun An afternoon refreshment consisting usually of sandwiches and cakes served with tea.
  • noun High tea.
  • noun An afternoon reception or social gathering at which tea is served.
  • noun Slang Marijuana.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To take tea.
  • To give tea to; serve with tea: as, to dine and tea a party of friends.
  • noun A product consisting of the prepared leaves of the tea-plant (see def. 2), of various kinds and qualities depending chiefly on the method of treatment.
  • noun The tea-plant, Camellia theifera, often named Thea Sinensis (or Chinensis).
  • noun An infusion of the prepared leaves of the tea-plant, used as a beverage, in Great Britain and America commonly with the addition of a little milk or sugar, or both, in continental Europe often with a little spirit, in Russia with lemon, and in China and neighboring countries without any admixture.
  • noun A similar infusion of the leaves, roots, etc., of various other plants, used either medicinally or as a beverage: generally with a qualifying word. See phrases below.
  • noun The evening meal, at which tea is usually served; also, an afternoon entertainment at which tea is served: as, a five o'clock tea. See high tea, under high.
  • noun Urine.
  • noun Same as mate.
  • noun See Psoralea.
  • See tae.

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

  • noun The prepared leaves of a shrub, or small tree (Thea Chinensis or Camellia Chinensis). The shrub is a native of China, but has been introduced to some extent into some other countries.
  • noun A decoction or infusion of tea leaves in boiling water.
  • noun Any infusion or decoction, especially when made of the dried leaves of plants
  • noun The evening meal, at which tea is usually served; supper.
  • noun the leaves of Catha edulis; also (Bot.), the plant itself. See Kat.
  • noun tea grown in Assam, in India, originally brought there from China about the year 1850.
  • noun (Bot.) a woody climbing plant (Smilax glycyphylla).
  • noun The dried leaves of Stachytarpheta mutabilis, used for adulterating tea, and also, in Austria, for preparing a beverage.
  • noun (Bot.) See under Labrador.
  • noun (Bot.) an American shrub, the leaves of which were formerly used as a substitute for tea; redroot. See Redroot.
  • noun (Bot.) See under New Zealand.
  • noun (Bot.) See Oswego tea.
  • noun mate. See 1st Mate.
  • noun a board or tray for holding a tea set.
  • noun (Zoöl.) an hemipterous insect which injures the tea plant by sucking the juice of the tender leaves.
  • noun a small box for holding tea.
  • noun a small, square wooden case, usually lined with sheet lead or tin, in which tea is imported from China.
  • noun (Zoöl.), [Local, U. S.] a small quahaug.
  • noun a public garden where tea and other refreshments are served.
  • noun (Bot.) any plant, the leaves of which are used in making a beverage by infusion; specifically, Thea Chinensis, from which the tea of commerce is obtained.
  • noun (Bot.) a delicate and graceful variety of the rose (Rosa Indica, var. odorata), introduced from China, and so named from its scent. Many varieties are now cultivated.
  • noun the appurtenances or utensils required for a tea table, -- when of silver, usually comprising only the teapot, milk pitcher, and sugar dish.
  • noun a tea service.
  • noun a table on which tea furniture is set, or at which tea is drunk.
  • noun one who tests or ascertains the quality of tea by tasting.


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

[Probably Dutch thee, from Malay teh, from Amoy te (equivalent to Mandarin chá), from dialectal Early Middle Chinese daɨ; akin to Middle Chinese drεʽ (source of Mandarin chá, tea); see chanoyu.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Originally from Min Nan (POJ: tê, Chinese: ). The word was brought to the West by the Dutch East India Company as thee, the Dutch approximation of the Min Nan pronunciation (compare the Malay word teh). The Mandarin pronunciation (chá) of the same Chinese character () is the source of the English word chai and the Russian and Arabic words for tea. ("The World Atlas of Language Structures Online" has a special chapter dedicated to the origin of the word for tea in different languages: .)


Help support Wordnik (and make this page ad-free) by adopting the word tea.



Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • For some thought-provoking discussion, see: waxed paper.

    In other news, last night I dreamed that Celestial Seasonings had partnered with the NFL for a promotional campaign targeted at 20- and 30-something male sports fans. Oddest dream I've had in a while. It was probably prompted by a recent conversation I had with someone about how tea may or may not be overtaking coffee as the most popular breakfast drink in America.

    October 12, 2007

  • Oh, that's just silly. The NBA maybe, but the NFL? ;->

    October 12, 2007

  • The package had Randy Moss on the front.

    October 12, 2007

  • Now if they could just get a giant vergerhade to hock the tea, they'd be in business!

    October 12, 2007

  • Cricket jargon: a 20-minute rest interval during a test match when the players leave the field for refreshments.

    December 16, 2007

  • "The dramatic increase of people available to populate the new urban spaces of the Industrial Age may have had one other cause: tea. The population growth during the first half of the eighteenth century neatly coincided with the mass adoption of tea as the de facto national beverage... Brewed tea possesses several crucial antibacterial properties that help ward off waterborne diseases: the tannic acid released in the steeping process kills off those bacteria that haven't already perished during the boiling of the water. The explosion of tea drinking in the late 1700s was, from the bacteria's point of view, a microbial holocaust... Largely freed from waterborne disease agents, the tea-drinking population began to swell in number, ultimately supplying a larger labor pool to the emerging factory towns, and to the great sprawling monster of London itself."

    —Steven Johnson, The Ghost Map (New York: Penguin, 2006), 94–95

    October 1, 2008

  • "To the Public.

    The long expected TEA SHIP arrived last night at Sandy-Hook, but the pilot would not bring up the Captain till the sense of the city was known. The committee were immediately informed of her arrival, and that the Captain solicits for liberty to come up to provide necessaries for his return. The ship to remain at Sandy-Hook. The committee conceiving it to be the sense of the city that he should have such liberty, signified it to the Gentleman who is to supply him with provisions, and other necessaries. Advice of this was immediately dispatched to the Captain; and whenever he comes up, care will be taken that he does not enter at the custom-house, and that no time be lost in dispatching him.

    New-York, April 19, 1774."

    "The TEA destroyed at Boston amounts to upwards of 8000l. £."

    Virginia Gazette, May 26, 1774

    "Information received yesterday, that on the last Day of February, or a Day or two in the Month of March, the Fortune had arrived in the Port of Boston with Tea on Board, and that the Mob had assembled in a tumultuous Manner, gone aboard this Ship, and destroyed the Cargo."

    Virginia Gazette (Purdie & Dixon), June 16, 1774

    January 29, 2009

  • Unexpected consequences of the Boston Tea Party...

    "L O N D O N, January 28.

    Letters from Boston complain much of the Taste of their Fish being altered. Four or five Hundred Chests of Tea may have so contaminated the Water in the Harbour that the Fish may have contracted a Disorder, not unlike the nervous Complaints of the human Body. Should this Complaint extend itself as far as the Banks of Newfoundland, our Spanish and Portugal Fish Trade may be much affected by it."

    Virginia Gazette (Purdie & Dixon), May 5, 1774

    January 30, 2009

  • Must have been all that caffeine.

    January 31, 2009

  • Norwegian female name.

    March 29, 2009

  • and also torch in spanish

    July 10, 2009

  • “Tea's proper use is to amuse the idle, and relax the studious, and dilute the full meals of those who cannot use exercise, and will not use abstinence�?

    -Samuel Johnson

    July 22, 2009

  • Usage/historical note can be found on tobacco.

    December 6, 2016