Tureen, earlier tereen from French terrine, cognate with terra, «earth», traditionally was an earthen pot or pan. Its modified spelling may be due to some fanciful connection with the city of .Turin. Current dictionaries define it as a huge serving bowl with a lid, specifically for soup. But in restaurant jargon, any large dish with a lid is a tureen, especially if designed for warm food.
The story that made the rounds, but may be apocryphal, is that the Vicomte de Turenne (1611-1675) sat down for dinner with his staff. They were informed that there were no soup bowls, whereupon the Vicomte, a daring and imaginative fellow, pulled off his helmet, turned it upside down, and voila, a soup bowl. If the story is true, the forebear of all the elegant tureens made of silver or fine china was a helmet made of unpolished iron.
Tureens have been used for centuries, and some, especially those designed for royalty or for the wealthy, have warranted placement in museums. The tureens styled by Meissen, Sevres, and Spode are sumptuous and colorful. The handles, or ears, of a tureen lend themselves to decorative imagination.
The Campbell Soup Company has a tureen museum in Camden, New Jersey.