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I've noticed a similar trend (dishes, bowls, etc). There are other non-utensil words (like trophy) but I'm curious if there is some history behind why the usage of the word "cup".

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    Because the trophy is shaped like a (fancy) cup.
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 7, 2016 at 3:38
  • Many prizes are named or nicknamed after the physical trophy— there are numerous sporting cups, like the Stanley Cup and the America's Cup, but also The Ashes urn, the Claret Jug, the Vélo d'Or, the Ranfurly Shield, the Lonsdale Belt, the Woodlawn Vase, and many others within and beyond sports, from the Blue Riband to the "Oscar."
    – choster
    Mar 7, 2016 at 4:14
  • Why are there so many utensils being used as trophies? Mar 7, 2016 at 4:32
  • Does this site not encourage etymology questions? Mar 13, 2016 at 11:05

2 Answers 2

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(As @keshlam rightly noted in his comment, this seems more properly to be a question for another forum than English, but I'll answer here in the hope that both Q & A will be moved together....)

This image (courtesy of CNN) from the 2013 America's Cup may suggest the answer: Winner drinking from America's Cup

The America's Cup is the oldest international sporting trophy, (Wikipedia quote), dating back to 1851, and as such can offer us some insight into what was the mindset nearly two centuries ago. This is a photo of the trophy when not being used to pour champagne down the winner's throat: enter image description here

I posit that a cup was used originally because the prize included a beverage. The winner was given a victory drink, and then kept the cup as a memento of the occasion. To this day, winners of sporting events are traditionally toasted with champagne.

Anglo culture is replete with ceremonial drinking; consider the stirrup cup, for example, which is a traditional drink offered before a departure, "served at the stirrup" when the visitor is leaving and has already mounted his/her horse.

It's possible that the Nordic / Anglo tradition of alcohol consumption slowly overtook the Greco-Roman tradition of awarding victors a laurel wreath for their efforts, making a beverage, and the cup it came in, the new prize to be won.

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  • This could also be rooted in the the legend of the Holy Grail.
    – Egox
    Mar 7, 2016 at 12:50
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Following up on @hotlicks' comment: The first World Cup trophy, if my google-fu hasn't failed me:

List item

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  • I don't think this answers the core question of why "cups". @choster mentioned that there are other kinds of tropies (urn, jug, etc) - but is there a reason why they use utensils as trophies? Mar 7, 2016 at 4:32
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    The question posed was why cup in this case, not why cups and the like are traditional shapes for trophies. You could edit to correct that, but the latter is not an English question and should be taken elsewhere.
    – keshlam
    Mar 7, 2016 at 5:34
  • I thought the origin of terms might fit the English stack exchange. Where else can I post this question? Mar 7, 2016 at 14:07
  • Sports jargon probably belongs in a sports discussion somewhere.
    – keshlam
    Mar 7, 2016 at 16:17

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