Sèvres porcelain service for the queen Marie-Antoinette (1784), Palace of Versailles, France.

Tableware is the dishes or dishware (ceramic), dinnerware (ceramics and other materials), or china (porcelain) used for setting a table, serving food, and for dining.[1] Tableware can be meant to include flatware and glassware. The nature, variety, and number of objects varies from culture to culture, religions, and cuisines.

In Britain and in the United States, tableware is most commonly referred to as dinnerware. Dinnerware can be meant to include glassware, however not flatware. In Britain, the term crockery is sometimes used for ceramic dishes. In the USA, ceramic dinnerware, whether made of porcelain or earthenware, is often referred to as china. Sets of dishes are often referred to as a table service or service set. Table settings or place settings are the dishes, flatware (cutlery), and glassware used by an individual for formal and informal dining. In the United Kingdom, silver service or butler service are names of methods for serving a meal.



English: 'Christmas Comes But Once A Year' (Victorian depiction of early 19th-century Christmas celebration, with servant carrying pudding to dining table).

The first known use of the term tableware was in 1766, dinnerware in 1895, and dishware in 1946.[2]

Dining culture in the United States

In 1880, Victorianism had established itself in the United States, with middle class Americans enjoying the materialism and consumption of goods to express their identities. The dining room or dining parlor, which had been in upper class houses since the colonial period of American history, became more common in middle-class homes. Dining became a social event with various food dishes being served with various manufactured tableware shapes. "The tools used for social dining changed dramatically over time, reflecting both changes in social life and the development of a tableware "fashion system." The manufacturers and marketers of china and glass wanted to sell more goods, the authors and publishers of books on entertaining sought to sell more copies; and the editors of tastemaking magazines pursued greater circulation and advertising revenues. They made table setting a distinctive fashion system of its own."[1]

From 1920 to 1945, the United States saw the onset of casual dining as processed foods and changing food habits appeared. Women spent less time cooking. Casseroles, food dishes made with canned soups, etc., became popular and tableware makers added a new dish, the casserole dish, to their products lines. "Under the new regime of simplicity the well set table displayed the least number of pieces possible."[1]

From 1945, after World War II, to 1960, the kitchen, no longer limited to the place where food was prepared, became a place to entertain and to dine with family and friends. Dinnerware sets were more informal in style, although a formal set of dinnerware or china was used for special occasions. After the 1960s until the 1980s, the formal dinner party returned as a "wave of gourmet culture"[1] swept the United States with the introduction of Julia Child's television program, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. However, the excess of Victorianism was replaced by simplicity in the number of shapes and pieces used for dining.


Dishes are usually made of ceramic materials such as earthenware, stoneware, or porcelain, however can be made of other materials such as wood, pewter, silver, gold, glass, acrylic, and plastic. Dishes are purchased either by the piece or by set which include either four, eight, or twelve place settings.


Place setting dishes

  • Plates, such as service plates, dinner plates, lunch plates, desert plates, salad plates, or bread plates
  • Bowls, including soup bowls, cereal bowls, fruit bowls, cream soups, or dessert bowls
  • Individual covered casseroles or covered soups
  • Teacups, coffeecups, and Demitasse cups
  • Saucers, including teacup saucers, coffeecup saucers, demitasse saucers, and cream soup saucers.
  • Mugs, coffee or tea mugs, and chocolate mugs.

Serving dishes

Patterns (decoration)

Notable designers



  • Castleton China, USA
  • Faiencerie de Gien, France
  • Fitz And Floyd, USA
  • Hadley Pottery, USA
  • Iroquois China, USA
  • Kütahya Porselen, Turkey
  • Rosenthal AG, Germany
  • Steubenville China, USA


Silver and other metals




Ice cream plate, Hayes administration, White House china.  
Blanche, designed by Gertrud Lönegren, Sweden.  
Hors d-Oeuvre dish, designed by Kaj Franck, Finland.  
Dragonware, Barbara Flügel Porzellan, Germany.  
Silver service, 18th-19th century, Royal Castle, Warsaw.  

Collections in museums


  1. ^ a b c d Venable, Charles L. et al (2000). China and Glass in America, 1880-1980: From Table Top to TV Tray. New York: Harry N. Abrams. ISBN 0810966921. 
  2. ^ "Merriam-Webster Dictionary". Encyclopedia Britannica Company. Retrieved 11 August 2011. 

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Tableware — Ta ble*ware , n. Ware, or articles collectively, for use during meals, including, for example, dishes, plates, bowls, knives, forks, and spoons. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • tableware — (n.) 1852, from TABLE (Cf. table) (n.) + WARE (Cf. ware) …   Etymology dictionary

  • tableware — [n] flatware dishes, forks, glasses, glassware, knives, silverware, spoons, utensils; concepts 433,499 …   New thesaurus

  • tableware — ► NOUN ▪ crockery, cutlery, and glassware used for serving and eating meals at a table …   English terms dictionary

  • tableware — [tā′bəl wer΄] n. dishes, glassware, silverware, etc. for use at table …   English World dictionary

  • tableware — /tay beuhl wair /, n. the dishes, utensils, etc., used at the table. [1825 35; TABLE + WARE1] * * *       utensils used at the table for holding, serving, and handling food and drink. Tableware includes various types of containers (known as… …   Universalium

  • tableware — [[t]te͟ɪb(ə)lweə(r)[/t]] N UNCOUNT Tableware consists of the objects used on the table at meals, for example plates, glasses, or cutlery. [FORMAL] …   English dictionary

  • tableware — noun Date: 1766 utensils (as of china, glass, or silver) for table use …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • tableware — noun The cutlery, crockery and glassware used in setting a table for a meal …   Wiktionary

  • tableware — Synonyms and related words: appliances, brassware, chinaware, clayware, copperware, cutlery, dining utensils, dinnerware, durable goods, durables, earthenware, enamelware, fixtures, flat silver, flatware, forks, glassware, graniteware, hard goods …   Moby Thesaurus

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