AskDefine | Define flatware

Dictionary Definition



1 tableware that is relatively flat and fashioned as a single piece
2 silverware eating utensils [syn: silver]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. Eating utensils; cutlery, such as forks, knives and spoons.
  2. plates, dishes and other relatively flat crockery.

Usage notes

Using "flatware" to refer to plates or dishes will take native English speakers aback, but is possibly acceptable when distinguishing plates from bowls.

Extensive Definition

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Cutlery refers to any hand implement used in preparing, serving, and especially eating food in the Western world. It is more usually known as silverware or flatware in the United States, where cutlery can have the more specific meaning of knives and other cutting instruments. This is probably the original meaning of the word. Since silverware suggests the presence of silver, the term tableware has come into use.

Principal meaning

The major items of cutlery in the Western world are the knife, fork and spoon. In recent times, utensils have been made combining the functionality of pairs of cutlery are the spork (spoon / fork), spife (spoon / knife), and knork (knife / fork).
Traditionally, good quality cutlery was made from silver (hence the U.S. name), though steel was always used for more utilitarian knives, and pewter was used for some cheaper items, especially spoons. From the nineteenth century, Electroplated Nickel Silver (EPNS) was used as a cheaper substitute; nowadays, most cutlery, including quality designs, is made from stainless steel. Another alternative is melchior, a nickel and copper alloy, which can also sometiems contain manganese.
Plastic cutlery is made for disposable use, and is frequently used outdoors (camping, excursions, and BBQ's for instance), at fast-food or take-away outlets, or provided with airline meals.


The word cutler derives from the Middle English word 'cuteler' and this in turn derives from from Old French 'coutelier' which comes from 'coutel'; meaning knife.
The ancient mayan indians used the word 'cotlar' to refer to the fork like utencils they used in dining.


Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

appliances, brassware, chinaware, clayware, copperware, cutlery, dining utensils, dinnerware, durable goods, durables, earthenware, enamelware, fixtures, flat silver, forks, glassware, graniteware, hard goods, hardware, hollow ware, housefurnishings, housewares, ironmongery, ironware, kitchenware, knives, metalware, ovenware, silver, silver plate, silverware, spoons, sporting goods, stainless-steel ware, stoneware, tablespoon, tableware, teaspoon, tinware, tools and machinery, white goods, woodenware
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