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[urn] /ɜrn/
a large or decorative vase, especially one with an ornamental foot or pedestal.
a vase for holding the ashes of the cremated dead.
a large metal container with a spigot, used for making or serving tea or coffee in quantity.
Botany. the spore-bearing part of the capsule of a moss, between lid and seta.
Origin of urn
1325-75; Middle English urne < Latin urna earthen vessel for ashes, water, etc., akin to urceus pitcher, Greek hýrchē jar
Related forms
urnlike, adjective
Can be confused
earn, urn. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for urn
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • You might have taken her for some fairy of the springs who had overturned her urn on herself.

    Fruitfulness Emile Zola
  • At nine o'clock at night he visited the "urn" called the "Sepulchre."

    The Eternal City Hall Caine
  • urn—yes, I cal'lated that was the idea, probably; but who's goin' to buy it?

    Mary-'Gusta Joseph C. Lincoln
  • Let him who is of the contrary opinion deposit his vote in urn No. 2.

    Hellenica Xenophon
  • It is in shape like a Greek urn, but has with it a flowing quality—and the whiteness.

    The Trimming of Goosie James Hopper
British Dictionary definitions for urn


a vaselike receptacle or vessel, esp a large bulbous one with a foot
a vase used as a receptacle for the ashes of the dead
a large vessel, usually of metal, with a tap, used for making and holding tea, coffee, etc
(botany) the spore-producing capsule of a moss
Derived Forms
urnlike, adjective
Word Origin
C14: from Latin ūrna; related to Latin ūrere to burn, urceus pitcher, Greek hurkhē jar
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
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Word Origin and History for urn

late 14c., "vase used to preserve the ashes of the dead," from Latin urna "a jar, vessel," probably from earlier *urc-na, akin to urceus "pitcher, jug," and from the same source as Greek hyrke "earthen vessel." But another theory connects it to Latin urere "to burn" (cf. bust (n.1)).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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