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[urn] /ɜrn/
a large or decorative vase, especially one with an ornamental foot or pedestal.
a vase for holding the ashes of the cremated dead.
a large metal container with a spigot, used for making or serving tea or coffee in quantity.
Botany. the spore-bearing part of the capsule of a moss, between lid and seta.
Origin of urn
1325-75; Middle English urne < Latin urna earthen vessel for ashes, water, etc., akin to urceus pitcher, Greek hýrchē jar
Related forms
urnlike, adjective
Can be confused
earn, urn. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for urn
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • In this tube the coals were placed, and when the water in the urn was hot, it could be drawn off by means of a faucet at the side.

  • You might have taken her for some fairy of the springs who had overturned her urn on herself.

    Fruitfulness Emile Zola
  • On arriving at the Pramane, the urn is placed upon the pagoda, there to remain for seven days.

  • Let him who is of the contrary opinion deposit his vote in urn No. 2.

    Hellenica Xenophon
  • The urn is placed on the table, as I make my own tea and coffee; the cocoa is made down stairs.

British Dictionary definitions for urn


a vaselike receptacle or vessel, esp a large bulbous one with a foot
a vase used as a receptacle for the ashes of the dead
a large vessel, usually of metal, with a tap, used for making and holding tea, coffee, etc
(botany) the spore-producing capsule of a moss
Derived Forms
urnlike, adjective
Word Origin
C14: from Latin ūrna; related to Latin ūrere to burn, urceus pitcher, Greek hurkhē jar
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 urn

late 14c., "vase used to preserve the ashes of the dead," from Latin urna "a jar, vessel," probably from earlier *urc-na, akin to urceus "pitcher, jug," and from the same source as Greek hyrke "earthen vessel." But another theory connects it to Latin urere "to burn" (cf. bust (n.1)).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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urn in Technology
The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010
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Related Abbreviations for urn


universal resource name
The American Heritage® Abbreviations Dictionary, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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