PORCELAIN, the name of that kind of ceramic ware which is characterized by a translucent body, also loosely used for the finer kinds of ware generally, popularly known as "china". The French porcelaine, from which the word comes into English, is an adaptation of the Italian porcellana, a cowrie-shell, the beautifully polished surface of which caused the name to be applied to the ware. The Italian word is generally taken to be from porcella, diminutive of porco, pig, from a sup-posed resemblance of the shell to a pig's back.
CERAMICS, or KERAMICS, a general term for the study of the art of pottery. It is adopted for this purpose both in French (ceramique) and in German (Keramik), and thus has its convenience in English as representing an inter-national form of description for a study which owes much to the art experts of all nations, though " ceramic " and " ceramics " do not appear in English as technical terms till the middle of the 19th century.
The word "pottery" (Fr. poterie) in its widest sense includes all objects fashioned from clay and then hardened by fire, though there is a growing tendency to restrict the word to the commoner articles of this great class and to apply the word "porcelain" to all the finer varieties. This tendency is to be deprecated, as it is founded on a misconception; the word "porcelai " should only be applied to certain well-marked varieties of pottery. The very existence of pottery is dependent on two important natural properties of that great and widespread group of rocky or earthy substances known as clays, viz. the property of plasticity (the power of being readily kneaded or molded while moist), and the property of being converted when fired into one of the most indestructible of ordinary things.