A cup is an open-top container used to hold or cold liquids for pouring or drinking; while mainly used for drinking, it also can be used to store solids for pouring (e.g., sugar, flour, grains, salt). Cups may be made of glass, metal, china, clay, wood, stone, polystyrene, plastic, aluminium or other materials, and are usually fixed with a stem, handles, or other adornments. Cups are used for quenching thirst across a wide range of cultures and social classes, and different styles of cups may be used for different liquids or in different situations. Cups of different styles may be used for different types of liquids or other foodstuffs (e.g. teacups and measuring cups), in different situations (e.g. at water stations or in ceremonies and rituals),or for decoration.
Cups are an improvement on using cupped hands or feet to hold liquids. They have almost certainly been used since before recorded history, and have been found at archaeological sites throughout the world. Prehistoric cups were sometimes fashioned from shells and hollowed out stones.
There is an evidence that the Roman Empire may have spread the use of cups throughout Europe, with notable examples including silver cups in Wales and a color-changing glass cup in ancient Thrace. In England, cups have been discovered which date back to several thousand years, including the Rillaton Gold Cup, about 3,700 years old. Cups were used in the Americas several centuries prior to the European arrivals. Around the Gulf of Mexico, Native American societies used the Horse conch for drinking cups, among other purposes.
Ancient Egyptian lotiform cup; 1295-1185 BC; faience; height: 15 cm, diameter: 9.1 cm; Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City)
Sèvres cup and saucer, decorated with Gothic Revival ornaments and patterns; 1827; porcelain; overall: 8.2 x 10 cm; Cleveland Museum of Art
Cultural significance and use
Since cups have been an integral part of dining since time immemorial, they have become a valued part of human culture. The shape or image of a cup appears in various places in human cultures.
Historically, monarchs have been concerned about assassination via poisoning. To avoid this fate, they often used dedicated cups, with cup-bearers to guard them. A "divining cup" was supposed to be able to detect poison. In the Bible, Joseph interpreted a dream for Pharaoh's cup-bearer, and a silver divining cup played a key role in his reconciliation with his brothers.
The measuring cup, an adaptation of a simple cup, is a standard tool in cooking that has been in use at least as far back as Roman times. Apart from serving as drinking vessels, cups can be used as an alternative to bowls as a receptacle, especially, for soup. Recipes have been published for cooking various dishes in cups in the microwave.
Drinking from a cup is a significant step on a baby's path to becoming a toddler; it is recommended that children switch from bottles to cups between six months and one year of age. Sippy cups are typically used for this transition.
Many trophies take the form of a decorated cup. In cases such as the FIFA World Cup and the Stanley Cup, the competition itself may grow to take on the name of the trophy that is awarded to the winner. Owing to the common usage of cup-shaped trophies as prizes for the winners, a large number of national and international competitions are called "cups".
In Tarot divination, the suit of cups is associated with the element of water and is regarded as symbolizing emotion, intuition, and the soul. Cards that feature cups are often associated with love, relationships, fears, and desires.
Various cups have been designed so that drinking out of them without spilling is a challenge. These are called puzzle cups.
In the developed world, cups are often distributed for promotional purposes. For example, a corporation might distribute cups with their logo at a trade show, or a city might hand out cups with slogans promoting recycling. There are companies that provide the service of printing slogans on cups.
Names for different types of cups vary regionally and may overlap. Any transparent cup, regardless of actual composition, is called a "glass"; therefore, while a cup made of paper is a "paper cup", a transparent one for drinking shots is called a "shot glass", instead.
For hot beverages
Disposable cups are intended to be used only once. They are often used by fast-food restaurants and coffee shops to serve beverages. Institutions that provide drinking water, such as offices and hospitals, may also use disposable cups for sanitary reasons.
For alcoholic beverages
Some styles of cups are used primarily for alcoholic beverages such as beer, wine, cocktail, and liquor. There are over a dozen distinct styles of cups for drinking beer, depending on the precise variety of beer. The idea that a certain beer should be served in a cup of a certain shape may have been promulgated more for marketing purposes, but there very well may be some basis in fact behind it. Wine glasses also come in different shapes, depending on the color and style of wine that is intended to be served in them.
- Beer stein
- Pint glass
- Old Fashioned glass
- Sake cup (ochoko)
- Shot glass
- Wine glass
For measurement, suction and breasts
French cup and saucer, decorated with Renaissance ornaments; 1880–1900; enamel and silver; overall: 6.5 x 8.5 x 6.5 cm; Cleveland Museum of Art
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