curio

[ kyoor-ee-oh ]
/ ˈkyʊər iˌoʊ /

noun, plural cu·ri·os.

any unusual article, object of art, etc., valued as a curiosity.

Origin of curio

First recorded in 1850–55; shortened from curiosity
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

VOCAB BUILDER

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.

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms of curio?

  • curios (plural)

What are some synonyms for curio?

What are some words that share a root or word element with curio

 

 

What are some words that often get used in discussing curio?

 

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.

 

 

Try using curio!

Which of the following words would NOT be used to describe a curio?

A. unusual
B. rare
C. collectible
D. common

Example sentences from the Web for curio

British Dictionary definitions for curio

curio
/ (ˈkjʊərɪˌəʊ) /

noun plural -rios

a small article valued as a collector's item, esp something fascinating or unusual

Word Origin for curio

C19: shortened from curiosity
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