Plate Charger

Thanksgiving 2012

Charger is a word used for many things. A charger can be:

  • A San Diego football player
  • A Dodge car
  • A battery charger
  • The fictional Transformer named Charger
  • A Prototype light attack and observation aircraft (Convair Charger)
  • An Australian rugby team (Gold Coast Chargers)
  • A medieval war horse
  • A  British term for a clip used in reloading firearms
  • A character in the Left 4 Dead 2 game
  • Me, when I’m shopping with my credit card!
  • Or the large decorative plate supporting the dinner plate that our son Jeff wanted to heap with Thanksgiving Day food.

Wikipedia defines a plate charger as a decorative plate used to fancify a place setting, used for special events. Thanksgiving Day was a special event but I use chargers with my table settings most of the time.

After our Thanksgiving dinner our son wondered why we hadn’t eaten from the nice large plate on the bottom of the place setting. I told him that it was just for decoration and that it was called a charger. He had never heard of a plate called a charger before. I guess I must have started using chargers under my dinner plates after he left home.

The above photo is what my table looked like for last week’s Thanksgiving Day dinner. I keep both of our tables set at all times and I change the place settings with the seasons. This works for us because we hardly ever eat at the table, but usually eat at our breakfast counter instead.

Besides having nice looking tables there is another reason I keep both our tables set, appearing as though we are ready for company at all times.

Both our dinette and dining room tables used to attract stuff. A lot of stuff. Mail, my purse, magazines, books, papers and a lot of other clutter used to pile up on those tables. They were a mess all the time and I just could not keep things from piling up.

Then I got the brilliant idea to keep the tables set at all time. If the tables are set I don’t put stuff on them. Both tables are completely set with chargers, salad and regular plates, silverware, glasses and a centerpiece. The tables no longer provide horizontal storage for our stuff and they look great. It is also fun to collect decorative plates and change them with the seasons.

Christmas 2012 with charger.

Charger plates, sometimes called underplates or chop plates, have been around since the 1800s but became popular again in the 1990s. They are strictly decorative and not meant to eat food from. My Thanksgiving chargers had a label on the back that cautioned against eating from them. That was what caught our son’s eye and made him wonder why such a nice large plate was on the table, yet could not be used to eat off of.

The word charger comes from the 13th century word chargeur, something whose role is to load. Chargers were once large platters or shallow plates for liquids. They were also used to protect the hands and tablecloth from a hot plate. One would hold the charger instead of the hot plate.

Chargers now come in a variety of materials, colors and prices. Most of my chargers are plastic but they are also available in wood, metal, glass, leather, wicker and other materials. Chargers can be made from toxic substances since food is not eaten from them.

The charger plate should complement the dinner plate and is usually 2-3 inches larger than the dinner plate. I like the layered look that I get by using a charger.

Charger etiquette says that chargers should be on the table when guests are seated. The chargers can remain on the table throughout all the courses, as a base for the various bowls and plates used for each course. But the charger should be removed for the dessert course.

My bad. I did not realize that on Thanksgiving Day and put the pumpkin pie plate directly on the charger. I’ll know better than to do that ever again.

This blog post, telling the history of the plate charger, is for you, Jeff. Now you know what a plate charger is and how it got its name.

This year’s Thanksgiving dinner was special because it included our future daughter-in-law. Jeff and Erin will be married tomorrow. I wish the best for both of you.


Source of information:



  1. Great article and great Thanksgiving dinner 🙂

    1. Thanks! It was great having you and Erin there.

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