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Cutlery, Crockery, Flatware, Silverware, Dinnerware… What’s the Difference?

Image Credit: Didriks, Creative Commons

If you were to try shopping for utensils, plates, platters or glasses online, you would be amazed by the variety of things you could find. So many different places to buy from, so many different styles of forks and knives and decorated plates, and so many utensils that will help you serve your food. But then again, you might notice that a same set of knives, forks and spoons is called flatware in one store, cutlery in another, and silverware in a third store. You might find the set in the tableware category. It’s obviously the same set, but how can it be called four different names?

The names we give to different types of utensils, as well as different object that are used to contain food while we eat it, or contain beverages while he drink them, sometimes overlap. For example, flatware is a part of dinnerware. Sometimes, the terms can be used interchangeably, like dinnerware and tableware. And sometimes, the same term is used to refer to different things in different English-speaking countries, like cutlery.

In order to explain all of this, it would be best to start with the broadest of the terms – tableware and dinnerware. Tableware includes everything that’s need to set a table, serve food and then eat it. So, a wine glass can be a part of tableware, just as a soup ladle, or a fork, or a plate can. The plates, if they are made from ceramics and used for everyday eating, are called crockery, and a set of plates is called a service set. Items used for serving food, like bowls or serving plates, are sometimes called serveware, although the term isn’t so widespread.

It’s a bit more complicated with utensils. In general, all the utensils used for preparing, serving and eating food should be called cutlery. However, the term is used particularly for eating utensils, and in the United States it’s the knives and other utensils used for cutting that are called cutlery. Flatware is what they call all of the utensils in the United States, but they also might call them simply tableware.

The term silverware actually includes more than just eating utensils – all of the household’s items made from sterling silver are silverware. So candlesticks made from silver, silver challises, and silver platters are all parts of silverware. That is, of course, if the term isn’t used to refer to just about any eating utensil, like it sometimes is.

When it comes to drinking vessels made of glass, the situation is pretty much straightforward. Glassware includes drinking glasses and vases, but to narrow it down only to drinking implements, it would be best to say glass drinkware. If the drinking glasses have a flat bottom, like a table glass or a juice class, they fall in the category of tumblers. If they have a stem, like a wine glass does, they fall under stemware. And if they are very large, maybe have a handle, and are used for serving beer – well, then they are called beer glassware.

Of course, there’s many more ways to further divide all the things that can be seen on the dinner table. However, this should explain how a single set of knives, forks and spoons, like the one made by Aava, can be called so many different names.

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