plural teas
: a widely cultivated shrub (Camellia sinensis of the family Theaceae, the tea family) native to China, northern India, and southeastern Asia and having glossy green leaves and fragrant white flowers
: the leaves, leaf buds, and internodes of the tea plant prepared for use in beverages usually by immediate curing by heat or by such curing following a period of fermentation

Note: Tea may be classified according to its method of manufacture (see black tea, green tea, oolong, white tea) or according to the leaf size of the plant it is produced from (see orange pekoe, pekoe, souchong).

: an aromatic beverage prepared from tea leaves by soaking them in boiling water
: any of various plants used like tea
also : a drink prepared by soaking their parts (such as leaves or roots) and used medicinally or as a beverage
mint tea
an herbal tea
: refreshments usually including tea with sandwiches, crackers, or cookies served in late afternoon
: a reception, snack, or meal at which tea is served
slang : marijuana
the tea slang : private or inside information especially of a personal nature
We know there've been breakups, social media battles and maybe even a new romance since the show dropped in February, and it's about time we got the tea on the divorces and everything that's happened since.Bethany Barton
usually used in the phrase spill the tea
A former bridesmaid is spilling the tea after her bridezilla now-ex-friend … set her up to look like she stole the show at the wedding.Adriana Diaz
He also spilled the tea on why Ewan McGregor is the funniest actor on set and why out of all the characters in the Star Wars universe, Yoda would be his ideal dinner date.Neil Shaw
tealike adjective

Illustration of tea

Illustration of tea
  • tea 1a

Examples of tea in a Sentence

Let's meet for tea tomorrow. That shop does a great afternoon tea.
Recent Examples on the Web Relief came for her from a combination of things, including gas relief medication and drinking tea. ​wendy Wisner, Parents, 1 July 2024 At the end of the day, guests of the Royal Box head to the Clubhouse for lunch, tea and drinks. Stephanie Petit, Peoplemag, 1 July 2024 Learn to identify and gather native plants for teas and medicinal purposes from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. along the Walnut Forest Trail in South Pasadena. Jeanette Marantos, Los Angeles Times, 1 July 2024 Snapple iced tea is an imperative antidote to all this delicious sodium. Cnt Editors, Condé Nast Traveler, 28 June 2024 See all Example Sentences for tea 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'tea.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


borrowed from Chinese (Xiamen)

Note: The use of the word tea to mean "inside information" presumably plays on an association of tea drinking with the exchange of gossip. Early use in this sense also seems to allude to tea leaves as a means to tell fortunes: "Over the past two weeks I've promised to spill the tea leaves about the Capital Cuppa competition in which readers of this newspaper play a crucial role" (ad in the Marylebone Mercury and other London newspapers, May 7, 1987); "Former White House chief of staff Donald Regan is going to spill the tea leaves about the Reagans' so-called superstitions in his book, due out in a couple of weeks" (Palm Beach Post, May 5, 1988, p. 49). Tea meaning "gossip" (without spilling or leaves) is an integral part of the lexicon of gay Harlem, documented by William Hawkeswood in One of the Children: Gay Black Men in Harlem (University of California Press, 1996; the author completed the text before his death in 1992). It has been suggested that the origin of tea as "gossip" might lie not in the literal meaning, but rather its adaptation as a spelled form of the letter T. The drag queen who went by the name The Lady Chablis used "my T" to refer to—as she put it in one source—"my thing, my business, what's goin' on in my life" and in another "my T, my Truth." The Lady Chablis is quoted extensively in John Berendt's "non-fiction novel" Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (New York, 1994), and spoke for herself in her autobiography Hiding My Candy: The Autobiography of the Grand Empress of Savannah (New York, 1996). As she explained in "The Lady Chablis Lexicon" at the end of the autobiography, "to know my T, to tell my T" is equivalent to "knowing where my candy's hidden; knowing that I even have candy," i.e., knowing that she is transgender and was born with male sex organs. The lexicon also lists "pour the tea," glossed as to "Tell The Doll the truth, or dish the dirt!", but the fact that she treated this as a distinct usage would lead one to believe that tea in this sense is not identical with her own use of T. If Chablis's T is actually dependent on tea, it is, in any case, after-the-fact word play on an existing meaning and cannot be claimed as the origin of the "gossip" sense.

First Known Use

circa 1655, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of tea was circa 1655

Dictionary Entries Near tea

Cite this Entry

“Tea.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition


: a shrub related to the camellias that has fragrant white flowers and is grown mainly in China, Japan, India, and Sri Lanka
: the leaves and leaf buds of the tea prepared for use in beverages
: a beverage prepared from tea by soaking the prepared leaves and buds in boiling water
: a drink or medicine made by soaking parts (as leaves or dried roots) of plants other than the tea shrub
ginger tea
: a late afternoon serving of tea and a light meal
: a party, snack, or meal at which tea is served

Medical Definition


1 of 2 noun
: a shrub (Camellia sinensis of the family Theaceae, the tea family) cultivated especially in China, Japan, and the East Indies
: the prepared and cured leaves, leaf buds, and internodes of the tea plant
: a mildly stimulating aromatic beverage prepared from tea leaves by infusion with boiling water
: any of various plants resembling tea in properties
also : an infusion of their leaves used medicinally or as a beverage


2 of 2 abbreviation
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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