What's the difference between 'cutlery', 'silverware' and 'crockery'? Are there any differences between them?
Cutlery has two definitions: 1. cutting/edged implements used for serving or eating food; 2. eating utensils in general. Without further context, an American is likely to assume the first definition (knives), while a Brit is more likely to go for the generic meaning. Silverware also means eating utensils, especially silver-colored ones, though nowadays, most silverware is not actually made of silver. An American synonym that does not imply anything about the silver content (or lack thereof) is flatware.
Crockery is completely different: in British English usage, it means the things on the dinner table that are usually made of china or porcelain -- plates, bowls, saucers, cups, serving bowls, etc. In American English, crockery is used for certain earthenware cooking pots, but given enough context, an American would probably understand crockery used according to the British definition.
I've always heard, and used, the terms thus: Cutlery only describes knives. Silverware (or simply "silver" here in the South), means eating utensils, regardless of their material (it's perfectly acceptable to refer to "plastic silverware," like what you would get with a to-go order from a restaurant). Crockery isn't really used in the US, to my knowledge. I know this word from my reading of books by British authors, but I don't know that I've ever heard it in the US. My understanding is that crockery would only mean plates, bowls and cups used at the table.
I polled my friends for what they call 'knives forks and spoons as a group'. Respondants were mostly US, with a few international. This was the result:
Silverware is the favorite term, followed by utensils, cutlery then flatware.
No one mentioned crockery as it doesn't reference the members of the silverware family.
protected by tchrist♦ Nov 30 '14 at 17:54
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