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terra cotta

[kot-uh] /ˈkɒt ə/
a hard, fired clay, brownish-red in color when unglazed, that is used for architectural ornaments and facings, structural units, pottery, and as a material for sculpture.
something made of terra cotta.
a brownish-orange color like that of unglazed terra cotta.
Origin of terra cotta
1715-25; < Italian: literally, baked earth < Latin terra cōcta


[ter-uh-kot-uh] /ˈtɛr əˈkɒt ə/
made of or having the color of terra cotta.
1865-70 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for terra cotta
Historical Examples
  • The cloisters adjoining are surrounded with a light arcade, with enrichments in the spandrils and frieze, all in terra cotta.

  • Can these have been of terra cotta of the della Robbia school?

    Portuguese Architecture Walter Crum Watson
  • Italian marble, terra cotta and Mexican onyx are the principal materials used, and nothing "equally as good" is tolerated.

    My Native Land James Cox
  • Another is a dining-room of copper, bronze and terra cotta shades.

    Social Life Maud C. Cooke
  • There were also several lamps, a small altar of terra cotta, and a few glass perfume vials.

  • In London, the substitute for the clay would be terra cotta.

  • terra cotta and Tiles,—Owing to large deposits of fine clays suitable for making such articles.

  • The sphere is of terra cotta; the marks that have been made on it are rough and ill formed.

    The Swastika Thomas Wilson
  • Before him there is the grand doorway, surmounted by the oft-described arch of Spanish shields in terra cotta.

    My Native Land James Cox
  • How minutely expressive are the terra cotta images of Spain!

    The Collector Henry T. Tuckerman
Word Origin and History for terra cotta



1722, from Italian terra cotta, literally "cooked earth," from terra "earth" (see terrain) + cotta "baked," from Latin cocta, fem. past participle of coquere (see cook (n.)). As a color name for brownish-red, attested from 1882.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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