Definition: Tea

From New World Encyclopedia

Etymology 1

Circa 1650, from Dutch thee, from Hokkien or (Amoy dialect), from Old Chinese, ultimately from Proto-Sino-Tibetan *s-la (leaf, tea). Introduced to English and other Western European languages by the Dutch East India Company, who sourced their tea in Amoy; compare Malay teh along the same trade route. Doublet of chai and cha (and, distantly, lahpet), from same Proto-Sino-Tibetan root.


tea (countable and uncountable, plural teas)

  1. The tea plant (Camellia sinensis) or a variety of this plant.
    Darjeeling tea is grown in India.
  2. The dried leaves or buds of the tea plant, or a variety of such leaves.
    Let's go to the supermarket and buy some Darjeeling tea!
  3. The drink made by infusing these dried leaves or buds in hot water.
    Would you like some tea?
  4. Any similar drink made by infusing parts of various other plants.
    We have camomile tea, green tea, and mint tea.
  5. (in combination) Meat stock served as a hot drink.
    Beef tea has an interesting flavor.
  6. (UK) A light mid-afternoon meal, typically but not necessarily including tea.
    I invited my wife to tea.
  7. (cricket) The break in play between the second and third sessions.
    Australia were 490 for 7 at tea on the second day.

Usage notes

In most places tea is assumed to mean hot tea, while in the southern United States, it is assumed to mean iced tea.

Derived terms

  • black tea
  • boba tea
  • bubble tea
  • camomile tea
  • cream tea
  • green tea
  • herbal tea
  • iced tea
  • milk tea
  • mint tea
  • sun tea
  • sweet tea
  • teabag
  • teacake
  • tea cosy
  • teacup
  • tea leaf
  • tea party
  • teapot
  • tea room
  • teaspoon
  • tea towel


tea (third-person singular simple present teas, present participle teaing, simple past and past participle teaed or tea'd or tead)

  1. To drink tea.
  2. To take afternoon tea (the light meal).
  3. To give tea.

Etymology 2

From Chinese or chá (tea).


tea (plural teas)

  1. A moment, a historical unit of time from China, about the amount of time needed to quickly drink a traditional cup of tea. It is now found in Chinese-language historical fiction.

Usage notes

This term is found in English translations of Chinese-language historical fiction, where it is used to give the work an ancient Chinese feel.


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