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[pawr-suh-lin, pohr-; pawrs-lin, pohrs-] /ˈpɔr sə lɪn, ˈpoʊr-; ˈpɔrs lɪn, ˈpoʊrs-/
a strong, vitreous, translucent ceramic material, biscuit-fired at a low temperature, the glaze then fired at a very high temperature.
ware made from this.
Origin of porcelain
1520-30; < French porcelaine < Italian porcellana orig., a type of cowry shell, apparently likened to the vulva of a sow, noun use of feminine of porcellano of a young sow, equivalent to porcell(a), diminutive of porca sow (see pork, -elle) + -ano -an
Related forms
porcelaneous, porcellaneous
[pawr-suh-ley-nee-uh s, pohr-] /ˌpɔr səˈleɪ ni əs, ˌpoʊr-/ (Show IPA),
adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for porcelain
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Historical incidents occur which show that Oriental porcelain was by slow degrees making its way Westwards.

    Chats on Oriental China J. F. Blacker
  • Why should not the manufacture of porcelain equally enrich the Elector?

    Self-Help Samuel Smiles
  • The scale is porcelain, very legible, and not liable to change.

  • The mercury is then to be washed and dried by heating to, say, 110° C. in a porcelain dish.

    On Laboratory Arts Richard Threlfall
  • Their heads were made of porcelain, or rubber, or composition, and they had grown so old that they were really ugly.

    Proud and Lazy Oliver Optic
British Dictionary definitions for porcelain


/ˈpɔːslɪn; -leɪn; ˈpɔːsə-/
a more or less translucent ceramic material, the principal ingredients being kaolin and petuntse (hard paste) or other clays, ground glassy substances, soapstone, bone ash, etc
an object made of this or such objects collectively
(modifier) of, relating to, or made from this material: a porcelain cup
Derived Forms
porcellaneous (ˌpɔːsəˈleɪnɪəs) adjective
Word Origin
C16: from French porcelaine, from Italian porcellana cowrie shell, porcelain (from its shell-like finish), literally: relating to a sow (from the resemblance between a cowrie shell and a sow's vulva), from porcella little sow, from porca sow, from Latin; see pork
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for porcelain

1530s, from Middle French porcelaine and directly from Italian porcellana "porcelain" (13c.), literally "cowrie shell," the chinaware so called from resemblance of its lustrous transparency to the shiny surface of the shells. The shell's name in Italian is from porcella "young sow," fem. of Latin porcellus "young pig," diminutive of porculus "piglet," diminutive of porcus "pig" (see pork (n.)). According to an old theory, the connection of the shell and the pig is a perceived resemblance of the shell opening to the exposed outer genitalia of pigs.

porcelain is china & china is p.; there is no recondite difference between the two things, which indeed are not two, but one; & the difference between the two words is merely that china is the homely term, while porcelain is exotic & literary. [Fowler]

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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