Origin of curio
Words nearby curio
What does curio mean?
A curio is a small object that’s unusual, novel, or interesting, typically one that’s part of a collection of other such objects.
A curio can also be called a curiosity, and in fact it’s a shortening of that word. In a curio collection, there is often a variety of objects. The requirement for an item’s addition to the collection is usually just that it has to be curious, meaning that it arouses curiosity or is interesting in some way.
Just about any small thing that one finds interesting can be called a curio, but the word is most often applied to things like antique trinkets, small handcrafted items, or natural objects, like rocks, fossils, and shells.
The word curio is commonly associated with the type of case often used to display such collections, which is called a curio cabinet and usually looks like a bookcase with glass doors. The term curio shop typically refers to a souvenir shop that sells curios and other novelty items.
Example: When I travel, I like to buy things made by local artisans to add to my curio collection.
Where does curio come from?
The word curio was first recorded around the 1850s. It’s a shortened form of the word curiosity, which comes from the Latin cūriōsus, meaning “careful” or “inquisitive.”
Some people collect one single type of thing, like coins or stamps. But some curious collectors collect anything they consider curious. These items can have a high monetary value—like a rare coin, stamp, or antique clock—or they can be something found on the ground, like a nearly intact bird’s egg. A curio might be an object that holds some sense of mystery, like your great-great-grandfather’s toy from the 1800s, or an old compass you bought in a seaside shop. Some shops specialize in curios, or at least what they call curios, which might otherwise be called souvenirs, knickknacks, or tchotchkes. But if you find them curious or novel, they’re curios.
The point of having such items is usually not for the value but for the fun of looking at them, and people often display their curio collections in curio cabinets or similar display cases. Picture dark wooden shelves filled with narwhal tusks, ceremonial masks, nautilus shells, old instruments, peacock feathers, miniature paintings, scrimshaws, sparkling geodes, and some weird stuff preserved in jars.
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How is curio used in real life?
The word curio is most often found in the same place that curios are kept—a curio cabinet.
Last night I dreamt of my grandmothers curio cabinet, all of its trinkets, and Knick-knacks, behind beautiful glass doors. And I stared at it with her in the reflection behind me. I reached to open it, and jolted awake. No one touches grandmas curio cabinet. Not even in dreams.
— HepBURN (@BellePanic) April 14, 2020
A word to the wise, now, to the garbage collectors of the world, to the curio seekers, to the antique buffs, to everyone who would try to coax out a miracle from unlikely places. Check that bottle you're taking back for a two-cent deposit. The genie you save might be your own.
— The Mystic Seer (@PitOfMansFears) April 15, 2020
I rearranged Helen's curio cabinet because I couldn't take it anymore.
— Myrna Tellingheusen (@PearlsFromMyrna) March 10, 2020
Try using curio!
Which of the following words would NOT be used to describe a curio?
How to use curio in a sentence
Originally only available for those who made the pilgrimage to Sai Anantam Ashram, it’s since become a beloved curio on the Internet, uploaded often to YouTube and garnering millions of views.
Brian Shuster is also developing a VR-friendly web browser known as Curio.Welcome to Oculus XXX: In-Your-Face 3D is the Future of Porn|Aurora Snow|October 18, 2014|DAILY BEAST
But Wigs on the Green provides a lesson in something other than style and is something more than a curio.
There must be at least twenty-five dollars' worth of pure gold in that slug if there's a penny—let alone its curio value.Where the Pavement Ends|John Russell
But what was my amazement, as the light fell upon the face of him who bore it, to see not Curio but Isaac.Aurelian|William Ware
There is much haggling over the price of a curio, and but little chance of a bargain.Over the Rocky Mountains to Alaska|Charles Warren Stoddard
Then her lantern sought out a curio cabinet, of glass sides and gilded frame, standing in a corner.
As he passed the drawing-room door he saw Kate bending in front of the open curio cabinet.