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A conventional teaspoon made of stainless steel.

A teaspoon is an item of cutlery, a measuring instrument or a unit of measurement of volume (usually abbreviated tsp.)[1][2] in some countries and customs.


  • Cutlery 1
  • Measure of volume 2
    • History 2.1
    • United States customary teaspoon 2.2
    • Metric teaspoon 2.3
    • Alternative definitions 2.4
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


A cup of coffee with coffee spoon

A teaspoon, as an item of cutlery, is a small spoon, commonly part of a silverware (usually silver plated, German silver or now, stainless steel) place setting, suitable for stirring and sipping the contents of a cup of tea or coffee, or adding a portion of loose sugar to it. These spoons have bowls more or less oval in shape.

Teaspoons with longer handles, such as iced tea spoons, are commonly used also for ice cream desserts or floats. Similar spoons include the tablespoon and the dessert spoon, the latter intermediate in size between a teaspoon and a tablespoon, used in eating dessert and sometimes soup or cereals. Much less common is the coffee spoon, which is a smaller version of the teaspoon, intended for used with the small type of coffee cup.[3] Another teaspoon, called an orange spoon (in American English: grapefruit spoon), tapers to a sharp point or teeth, and is used to separate citrus fruits from their membranes. A bar spoon, equivalent to a teaspoon, is used in measuring ingredients for mixed drinks.

A container designed to hold extra teaspoons, called a spooner, usually in a set with a covered sugar container, formed a part of Victorian table service.

The teaspoon is first mentioned in an advertisement in an 1686 edition of the London Gazette.[4][5]

Measure of volume

In some countries, a teaspoon (occasionally "teaspoonful") is a unit of volume, especially widely used in cooking recipes and pharmaceutic prescriptions. In English it is abbreviated as tsp. or, less often, as t., ts., or tspn. The abbreviation is never capitalized because a capital letter is customarily reserved for the larger tablespoon ("Tbsp.", "T.", "Tbls.", or "Tb."). In German and Dutch teaspoon is abbreviated TL, for Teelöffel and Theelepel respectively.

Measuring spoons, with the second largest one representing the volume of a teaspoon.


See also Apothecaries' system.

As an unofficial but once widely used unit of Apothecaries' measure, the teaspoon is equal to 1 fluid dram (or drachm) and thus 14 of a tablespoon or 18 of a fluid ounce.[6][7] The Apothecaries' teaspoon (formerly tea spoon or tea-spoon) was formally known by the Latin cochleare minus, abbreviated cochl. min. to distinguish it from the tablespoon or cochleare majus (cochl. maj.).[8][9]

When tea-drinking was first introduced to England circa 1660, tea was rare and expensive, as a consequence of which teacups and teaspoons were smaller than today. This situation persisted until about 1710, when the East India Company began importing tea directly from China. As the price of tea declined, the size of teacups and teaspoons increased. By the 1730s, the teaspoon as a unit of culinary measure had increased to 13 of a tablespoon, but the apothecary unit of measure remained the same.[10] Nevertheless, the teaspoon, usually under its Latin name, continued to be used in Apothecaries' measures for several more decades, with the original definition of one fluid dram.

United States customary teaspoon

See United States customary units for relative volumes of these and other measures.

In the United States one teaspoon as a unit of culinary measure is 13 tablespoon, that is, 4.92892159375 mL; it is exactly 1 13 US fluid drams, 16 US fl oz, 148 US cup, and 1768 US liquid gallon and 77256 or 0.30078125 cubic inches. For nutritional labeling on food packages in the US, the teaspoon is defined as precisely 5 mL.[11] (Teaspoon (metric) is exactly equal to 5 cm3.)[12]

Common cutlery teaspoons are not designed to contain a standard volume. In practice, they may hold anything between 2.5 mL and 6 mL of liquid, so such spoons are not suitable for precise measurements, in particular for medicine. Measuring spoons should be used instead.

Metric teaspoon

The metric teaspoon as a unit of culinary measure is 5 ml; that is, 13 UK/Canadian metric tablespoon, or 14 Australian metric tablespoon.

Alternative definitions

If a recipe calls for a level teaspoon of a dry ingredient (salt, flour, etc.), this refers to an approximately leveled filling of the spoon, producing the same volume as for liquids. A rounded teaspoon is a larger but less precise measure, produced without leveling the ingredient off or heaping it as high as possible. A heaping or heaped teaspoon is a larger inexact measure consisting of the amount obtained by scooping the dry ingredient up without leveling it off. For some ingredients, e.g. flour, this quantity can vary considerably.

See also


  1. ^ Marie O'Toole, editor. Mosby's Medical Dictionary, 9th edition. p. 1746. Retrieved 15 May 2014. 
  2. ^ Charles Sinclair. Dictionary of Food: International Food and Cooking Terms from A to Z. Retrieved 15 May 2014. 
  3. ^ T. S. Eliot's poem The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock mentions coffee spoons: "For I have known them all already, known them all: / Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons, / I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;"
  4. ^ "ˈtea-spoon, n.". OED Online. Oxford University Press. 27 June 2012
  5. ^ London Gazette Issue 2203 27 December 1686 page 2 "three small gilded Tea Spoons"
  6. ^ Robert Borneman Ludy (1907). Answers to questions prescribed by pharmaceutical state boards. J.J. McVey. p. 125. Retrieved 19 December 2011. 
  7. ^ Dr. Collins (1803). Practical rules for the management and medical treatment of Negro slaves in the sugar colonies. Printed by J. Barfield, for Vernor and Hood. p. 465. Retrieved 19 December 2011. 
  8. ^  
  9. ^ Henri Milne-Edwards; Pierre Henri L.D. Vavasseur (1831). A manual of materia medica and pharmacy, from the Fr. of H.M. Edwards and P. Vavasseur, corrected by J. Davies. p. 12. Retrieved 19 December 2011. 
  10. ^ Robert Eglesfeld Griffith (1859). A universal formulary: containing the methods of preparing and administering officinal and other medicines. The whole adapted to physicians and pharmaceutists. H.C. Lea. p. 25. Retrieved 19 December 2011. 
  11. ^ 21CFR101.9(b)(5)(viii) 2 1CFR101.9
  12. ^ Cardarelli, François Cradarelli (2003). Encyclopaedia of Scientific Units, Weights and Measures. London: Springer. p. 44.  

External links

  • Spoons give wrong medicine dosesUK National Health Service (NHS)
  • Liquid medication administrationUS National Institutes of Health (NIH) MedlinePlus
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