Vocabulary for Dining and Dinnerware

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From elegant table settings to proper dining etiquette, understanding the vocabulary associated with dining and dinnerware is key to creating a refined and enjoyable dining experience. Whether you're hosting a formal dinner party or simply want to elevate your everyday meals, this article will introduce you to essential words and phrases related to table settings, dining etiquette, tableware, and cups and glasses. 
Dining Chair Style Names

Names of Table Settings

When it comes to dining, understanding the vocabulary associated with table settings is essential. Here are some keywords to familiarize yourself with:

  • Charger Plate: A large decorative plate, usually placed beneath the main dinner plate, to add a touch of elegance to the table setting.
  • Napkin Ring: A circular band or holder used to encircle a folded napkin, keeping it neatly in place.
  • Place Card: A small card or tag bearing a guest's name, indicating their designated seating arrangement.
  • Salt and Pepper Shakers: Containers with perforated tops for dispensing salt and pepper at the dining table.
  • Tablecloth: A large piece of fabric that covers the table, providing a decorative and protective layer.
  • Placemat: A mat placed under each table setting, serving both as a decorative element and a barrier between the plate and the table.
  • Centerpiece: An eye-catching arrangement, such as flowers, candles, or a decorative sculpture, placed in the middle of the table.
  • Bread Plate: A small plate placed above the forks, used for serving individual portions of bread or rolls.
  • Charger Napkin: A decorative cloth napkin placed on top of the charger plate, adding an extra layer of elegance to the table setting.
  • Candelabra: A decorative branched candleholder, often placed as a centerpiece on the dining table, creating an ambient and warm atmosphere.

From the placement of utensils to the arrangement of plates and napkins, these terms help create an organized and sophisticated dining experience. 

Words for Table Etiquette

Good table etiquette is important in both formal and informal dining settings. Knowing the proper behavior and vocabulary associated with dining etiquette can help you navigate social situations. Be a perfectly confident person at every dinner:

  • RSVP: Abbreviation for "Répondez s'il vous plaît," which means "Please respond" in French. It indicates that the host must respond regarding attendance or regrets about an event or dinner.
  • Seating Arrangement: The predetermined arrangement of guests at a dining table. It is often organized based on social hierarchy or specific seating plans created by the host.
  • Grace: A short prayer or blessing before a meal to express gratitude and invoke blessings. It is a common tradition in many cultures and is often said by the host or a designated person.
  • Elbows Off the Table: A rule of table etiquette that suggests keeping elbows off the table while eating. It is considered polite and prevents accidental spills or disruptions during the meal.
  • Dress Code: The specified attire expected for a particular dining event. It can range from casual to formal, and adhering to the dress code shows respect for the occasion and the host.

Tableware Definitions

Understanding the different types of tableware is crucial for setting a proper table and using the right utensils for each course. Here are some keywords to familiarize yourself with:

  • Soup Spoon: A round-bowled spoon with a shorter handle, specifically designed for eating soups or broths.
  • Butter Dish: A covered dish used for serving butter at the table, keeping it fresh and easily accessible.
  • Gravy Boat: A small, boat-shaped vessel with a pouring spout for serving gravy or sauces.
  • Dinner Plate: A flat, circular plate with a raised rim used for serving the main course.
  • Salad Plate: A smaller-sized plate used for serving salads or appetizers.
  • Soup Bowl: A deep, rounded bowl used to serve soups or stews.
  • Dessert Bowl: A small-sized bowl used for serving desserts or ice cream.
  • Cutlery: Utensils used for eating, including knives, forks, and spoons.
  • Butter Knife: A small knife with a blunt edge, specifically designed for spreading butter or other spreads.
  • Serving Spoon: A large spoon used to serve food from a communal dish onto individual plates.


Cups and Glasses

Here are some keywords to familiarize yourself with:

  • Wine Glass: A stemmed glass with a wide bowl designed for serving wine.
  • Water Glass: A tall, straight-sided glass for serving water at the table.
  • Champagne Flute: A long, narrow glass with a tall stem designed explicitly for serving champagne or sparkling wine.
  • Highball Glass: A tall, cylindrical glass used for serving mixed drinks, typically containing a high proportion of non-alcoholic beverages.
  • Martini Glass: A stemmed glass with a wide, cone-shaped bowl, often used for serving cocktails like martinis.
  • Coffee Mug: A large, cylindrical cup with a handle for hot beverages such as coffee or tea.
  • Shot Glass: A small, thick-bottomed glass used for serving small quantities of strong alcoholic beverages, typically consumed in one shot.
  • Tumbler: A short and wide drinking glass without a stem, commonly used for serving water or non-alcoholic beverages.
  • Snifter: A stemmed glass with a wide bottom and a narrow top, typically used for savoring and swirling spirits like brandy or cognac.
  • Irish Coffee Glass: A glass with a handle designed for serving Irish coffee, featuring a narrow top and a wide bowl.

The vocabulary associated with cups and glasses encompasses various types of drinkware used for different beverages. Whether you're serving water, wine, or cocktails, using the proper glass is essential for enhancing the drinking experience. 

List of Dining Chair Styles and Types

When it comes to dining room vocabulary, it's essential to understand different dining chair types and names. While not directly related to dinnerware, dining chairs are crucial in creating a comfortable and aesthetically pleasing dining space. 

  • Windsor Chair: A classic wooden chair characterized by its spindle back and solid seat, often with distinctive curved legs.
  • Parsons Chair: A sleek and armless chair with a fully upholstered seat and back, known for its versatility and simplicity.
  • Louis XVI Chair: A regal chair with an ornately carved frame, often featuring a rectangular back, fluted legs, and decorative accents.
  • Chippendale Chair: A chair inspired by the 18th-century English furniture maker Thomas Chippendale, known for its intricate woodwork, including pierced splats and cabriole legs.
  • Eames Chair: A modern and iconic chair designed by Charles and Ray Eames, featuring a molded plastic or plywood seat and a wire or wooden base.
  • Crossback Chair: A chair with a distinctive X-shaped back, providing both support and visual interest, often used in rustic or farmhouse-style dining rooms.
  • Upholstered Dining Chair: A chair with a cushioned seat and back covered in fabric or leather, offering enhanced comfort and a touch of elegance.
  • Ladderback Chair: A chair with horizontal slats resembling a ladder on the backrest, known for its sturdy construction and rustic charm.
  • Wingback Chair: A chair with high backrests that extend to the sides, resembling "wings," providing additional support and a sense of privacy.
  • Bistro Chair: A lightweight and compact chair, typically made of metal or rattan, often associated with outdoor dining or café settings.

Understanding the different dining chair styles and types allows you to select the perfect chairs that complement your dining table and overall décor, enhancing your dining experience. Who knows, maybe someday you will sit in the same chair world leaders use in their houses.

Popular Idioms and Fun Phrases

Dining and dinnerware have also inspired various idioms and fun phrases that add color and humor to conversations. Here are some popular idioms and fun phrases related to dining and dinnerware:

  • "Break the ice": This phrase refers to initiating a conversation or overcoming initial shyness or awkwardness. It originates from the custom of breaking a large block of ice to serve chilled beverages at social gatherings.
  • "In hot water": When someone is "in hot water," it means they are in trouble or facing a difficult situation. The phrase alludes to the discomfort of being scalded or burned, akin to facing the consequences of one's actions.
  • "Cup of tea": If something is "your cup of tea," it means it is something you enjoy or prefer. The phrase comes from the British tradition of offering tea to guests and reflecting personal tastes and preferences.
  • "Spill the beans": When someone "spills the beans," it means they reveal secret or confidential information. The phrase is believed to have originated from an ancient voting practice where beans were used to cast votes, and accidentally revealing the beans exposed one's choice.
  • "Bottoms up!": This phrase is often used as a toast before taking a drink, encouraging everyone to finish their drinks in one gulp. It is a lighthearted way of encouraging people to enjoy their beverages together.
  • "Piece of cake": If something is described as a "piece of cake," it means it is effortless. The phrase likens the simplicity of eating a piece of cake to completing a task without difficulty.
  • "Eat humble pie": When someone "eats humble pie," it means they admit their mistake or humiliation and show humility. The phrase originates from the medieval pie made from the "umbles" (offal) of deer, which was considered a food for the lower classes.

Understanding and utilizing these idioms and phrases can add flair to your conversations and bring a touch of culinary charm to your language.


Familiarizing yourself with the vocabulary related to dining and dinnerware allows you to navigate table settings, understand dining etiquette, and appreciate the variety of tableware, cups, and glasses. Whether you're hosting a formal dinner or enjoying a casual meal, knowing these terms enriches your dining experience and helps you communicate effectively in culinary contexts.

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TYLERDec 28th, 2023
Love how detailed and informative this dinnerware vocabulary is!
Jamie PowellOct 17th, 2023
I've learned so much about the etiquette and terminology of fine dining from this article - it's a must-read for anyone interested in refined cuisine.