a. An evergreen shrub or small tree (Camellia sinensis) native to Asia, having fragrant, nodding, cup-shaped white flowers and glossy leaves.
b. The young, dried leaves of this plant, prepared by various processes and used to make a beverage, usually served hot.
- An aromatic, slightly bitter beverage made by steeping tea leaves in boiling water.
- Any of various plants, such as New Jersey tea, having leaves that are or were formerly used to make a tealike beverage.
- Any of various beverages made by steeping the leaves, flowers, fruits, or other parts of certain plants: herbal tea; peppermint tea.
- Any of various beverages made by extracting an infusion from meat, especially beef.
- A tea rose.
- Chiefly British
a. An afternoon refreshment consisting usually of sandwiches and cakes served with tea.
b. High tea.
- An afternoon reception or social gathering at which tea is served.
- Slang Marijuana.
Origin of tea Probably
Dutch thee from
Malay teh from
( equivalent to
dialectal Early Middle Chinese da&istroke; akin to
Middle Chinese drε&tricolon;
( source of
Mandarin chá tea
); see chanoyu
. Word History: “Here thou, great Anna! whom three realms obey, / Dost sometimes counsel take—and sometimes tea.”
When Alexander Pope wrote these lines from The Rape of the Lock
in 1714, tea
still rhymed with obey.
This was true of many words spelled with ea,
and it was just about in Pope's time that nearly all these words started changing their pronunciation from (ā) to (ē), as in our modern pronunciation of tea
(tē). Most modern English words whose main vowel sound is spelled -ea-
were pronounced with long vowels in Middle and Old English. Many of these vowels were shortened in the 1500s and 1600s to their modern pronunciations, as in our words dead
But those words that were pronounced with an (ā) sound in Middle English did not undergo this sound change and kept their long vowels, undergoing the further change in Pope's time to the modern “long e” sound. There were several exceptions to this last sound change, most notably the words break, great,
Interestingly, the old pronunciation is also retained in Irish family names, such as Reagan, Shea, Beatty,
(in contrast to British family names such as Keats
(countable and uncountable, plural teas)
- (uncountable) The dried leaves or buds of the tea plant, Camellia sinensis.
- Go to the supermarket and buy some tea.
- (uncountable) The drink made by infusing these dried leaves or buds in hot water.
- Would you like some tea?
- (countable) A variety of the tea plant.
- Darjeeling is a tea from India.
- (uncountable) By extension, any drink made by infusing parts of various other plants.
- camomile tea; mint tea
- (countable, Australia, UK, Canada, New Zealand, northern US) A cup of any one of these drinks, often with a small amount of milk or cream added and sweetened with sugar or honey.
- (countable, southern US) A glass of iced tea, typically served with ice cubes and sometimes with a slice or wedge of lemon.
- (uncountable, UK) A light meal eaten mid-afternoon, typically with tea.
- Kids, your tea's on the table!
- (uncountable, New Zealand, UK, Australia) The main evening meal, irrespective of whether tea is drunk with it.
- The family were sitting round the table, having their tea.
- (cricket) The break in play between the second and third sessions.
- Australia were 490 for 7 at tea on the second day.
- (slang, dated) Marijuana.
In many places tea is assumed to mean hot tea, while in the southern United States, it is assumed to mean iced tea.
(third-person singular simple present teas, present participle teaing, simple past and past participle teaed)
- To drink tea.
- To take afternoon tea (the light meal).
Circa 1650, from Dutch thee, from Min Nan èŒ¶ (tÃª) (Amoy dialect), from Proto-Min, 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. Ultimately cognate to chai, from same Proto-Sino-Tibetan root; see discussion of cognates.
- A city in South Dakota