Chalice is not really used in common parlance. It’s a quaint word from another time. If you’ve ever heard it, I bet it’s probably in the final act from the Danny Kaye classic The Court Jester:
‘The vessel with the pessel
Has the pellet with the poison
The chalice from the palace
Has the brew that is true.’
Chalice, or more to the point, Calice, its Italian equivalent, means wine glass. It’s not a word I’m used to hearing or using, and nor were any of the other Italian Australians I was hanging with in Cosenza last week. When we order wine by the glass, we use ‘bicchiere’ which means drinking glass.
I guess that is because our Italian wax taught to us by parents who migrated in the 1950s, and who did not know words like ‘calice’ because any drinking glass would do and who could spare the money for fancy glassware. (I’m proud to say that my family used to save its vegemite jars to use as drinking glasses.)
But here in Italy today, in bars and restaurants, when you order wine by the glass, you ask for a ‘calice’. I like it, and it is my favourite word I have learned on this trip.