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porcelain

[pawr-suh-lin, pohr-; pawrs-lin, pohrs-]
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noun
  1. a strong, vitreous, translucent ceramic material, biscuit-fired at a low temperature, the glaze then fired at a very high temperature.
  2. ware made from this.
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Origin of porcelain

1520–30; < French porcelaine < Italian porcellana orig., a type of cowry shell, apparently likened to the vulva of a sow, noun use of feminine of porcellano of a young sow, equivalent to porcell(a), diminutive of porca sow (see pork, -elle) + -ano -an
Related formspor·ce·la·ne·ous, por·cel·la·ne·ous [pawr-suh-ley-nee-uh s, pohr-] /ˌpɔr səˈleɪ ni əs, ˌpoʊr-/, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for porcelain

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • If the one be porcelain, and the other earthen ware, both are brittle!

  • I haven't a single child that has not won the porcelain cross for obedience.

  • Why should not the manufacture of porcelain equally enrich the Elector?

    Self-Help

    Samuel Smiles

  • Barter returned to the porcelain slab banked with the lights and the keys.

    The Mind Master

    Arthur J. Burks

  • They are all covered with cloth and rubber and are fastened with glass or porcelain knobs.

    Common Science

    Carleton W. Washburne


British Dictionary definitions for porcelain

porcelain

noun
  1. a more or less translucent ceramic material, the principal ingredients being kaolin and petuntse (hard paste) or other clays, ground glassy substances, soapstone, bone ash, etc
  2. an object made of this or such objects collectively
  3. (modifier) of, relating to, or made from this materiala porcelain cup
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Derived Formsporcellaneous (ˌpɔːsəˈleɪnɪəs), adjective

Word Origin

C16: from French porcelaine, from Italian porcellana cowrie shell, porcelain (from its shell-like finish), literally: relating to a sow (from the resemblance between a cowrie shell and a sow's vulva), from porcella little sow, from porca sow, from Latin; see pork
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for porcelain

n.

1530s, from Middle French porcelaine and directly from Italian porcellana "porcelain" (13c.), literally "cowrie shell," the chinaware so called from resemblance of its lustrous transparency to the shiny surface of the shells. The shell's name in Italian is from porcella "young sow," fem. of Latin porcellus "young pig," diminutive of porculus "piglet," diminutive of porcus "pig" (see pork (n.)). According to an old theory, the connection of the shell and the pig is a perceived resemblance of the shell opening to the exposed outer genitalia of pigs.

porcelain is china & china is p.; there is no recondite difference between the two things, which indeed are not two, but one; & the difference between the two words is merely that china is the homely term, while porcelain is exotic & literary. [Fowler]
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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper