- the dried and prepared leaves of a shrub, Camellia sinensis, from which a somewhat bitter, aromatic beverage is prepared by infusion in hot water.
- the shrub itself, extensively cultivated in China, Japan, India, etc., and having fragrant white flowers.Compare tea family.
- the beverage so prepared, served hot or iced.
- any kind of leaves, flowers, etc., so used, or any plant yielding them.
- any of various infusions prepared from the leaves, flowers, etc., of other plants, and used as beverages or medicines.
- beef bouillon.
- British. any meal, whether a light snack or one consisting of several courses, eaten in the late afternoon or in the evening; any meal other than dinner, eaten after the middle of the afternoon.
- an afternoon reception at which tea is served.
- Slang. marijuana.
- one's cup of tea, something suitable, appropriate, or attractive to one: Horror movies and westerns are just not my cup of tea.
Origin of tea
- an evergreen shrub or small tree, Camellia sinensis, of tropical and subtropical Asia, having toothed leathery leaves and white fragrant flowers: family Theaceae
- the dried shredded leaves of this shrub, used to make a beverage by infusion in boiling water
- such a beverage, served hot or iced
- (as modifier)tea caddy; tea urn
- any of various plants that are similar to Camellia sinensis or are used to make a tealike beverage
- any such beverage
- mainly British
- Also called: afternoon teaa light meal eaten in mid-afternoon, usually consisting of tea and cakes, biscuits, or sandwiches
- (as modifier)a tea party
- Also called: high teaafternoon tea that also includes a light cooked dish
- British, Australian and NZ the main evening meal
- US and Canadian old-fashioned, slang marijuana
- tea and sympathy informal a caring attitude, esp to someone in trouble
Word Origin for tea
1650s, earlier chaa (1590s, from Portuguese cha), from Malay teh and directly from Chinese (Amoy dialect) t'e, in Mandarin ch'a. First known in Paris 1635, the practice of drinking tea was first introduced to England 1644.
The distribution of the different forms of the word reflects the spread of use of the beverage. The modern English form, along with French thé, Spanish te, German Tee, etc., derive via Dutch thee from the Amoy form, reflecting the role of the Dutch as the chief importers of the leaves (through the Dutch East India Company, from 1610). The Portuguese word (attested from 1550s) came via Macao; and Russian chai, Persian cha, Greek tsai, Arabic shay, and Turkish çay all came overland from the Mandarin form.
Meaning "afternoon meal at which tea is served" is from 1738. Slang meaning "marijuana" (which sometimes was brewed in hot water) is attested from 1935, felt as obsolete by late 1960s. Tea ball is from 1895.
see cup of tea; not for all the tea in china; tempest in a teapot.