Trays: A Comprehensive Guide to What They Are and Their History

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  June 16, 2022
I love creating free content full of tips for my readers, you. I don't accept paid sponsorships, my opinion is my own, but if you find my recommendations helpful and you end up buying something you like through one of my links, I could earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Learn more

A tray is a shallow platform designed for carrying things. It can be fashioned from numerous materials, including silver, brass, sheet iron, paperboard, wood, melamine, and molded pulp. Some examples have raised galleries, handles, and short feet for support.

Trays are flat, but with raised edges to stop things from sliding off of them. They are made in a range of shapes but are commonly found in oval or rectangular forms, sometimes with cutout or attached handles with which to carry them.

Let’s look at everything there is to know about trays.

What are trays

Trays: The Perfect Serving and Carrying Solution for Any Occasion

Trays are flat, shallow platforms designed to hold and carry objects, commonly used for serving food and drinks. They come in different designs, materials, and sizes, making them an ideal choice for various occasions, such as dinner parties, buffets, tea or bar service, breakfast in bed, and more.

Materials and Designs

Trays can be fashioned from various materials, including stainless steel, brass, sheet iron, paperboard, wood, melamine, and molded pulp. Hardwoods, such as oak, maple, and cherry, are commonly used for producing stylish and durable trays. Trays can also come with different designs, such as folding, curved, upward edge, and with legs.

Service and Presentation

Trays are designed to serve and present food and drinks in a practical and stylish way. They can hold plates, glasses, cups, and cutlery, making them perfect for dinner parties and buffets. Trays with handles make it easy to carry items from one place to another, while trays with legs provide a stable base for serving. Trays can also be used for presentation purposes, such as displaying desserts, fruits, or cheeses.

The Salverit Tray

One of the most common types of trays is the Salverit tray, which is a flat, shallow container with a raised edge. It is commonly used for serving tea, coffee, or snacks, and it comes in various sizes and materials. The Salverit tray is an ideal choice for breakfast in bed or for serving drinks and snacks at a party.

The Fascinating Origins of Trays: From Ancient Times to Modern Day

Trays have been a part of human civilization for centuries, with their origins dating back to ancient times. The word “tray” comes from the Norse word “treyja” and the Swedish word “trø,” both of which mean “a wooden vessel or container.” The German word “treechel” and the Greek word “trega” also refer to similar objects. Even the Sanskrit word “tregi” and the Gothic word “tregwjan” have similar roots.

The Evolution of Trays

Over time, trays have evolved from simple wooden containers to more complex and decorative objects made from a variety of materials, including metal. In the past, trays were primarily used for serving dinner and storing food, but today, they have become an essential part of every kitchen and dining room. Trays are now used for a variety of purposes, from serving casual family meals to formal supper parties.

The Role of Trays in Modern Living

Trays have become an integral part of our daily lives, and they are used in almost every room of the house. They are not only functional but also add a touch of style and elegance to any space. Here are some of the ways trays are used in modern living:

  • In the kitchen: Trays are used to store and organize kitchen items, such as spices, oils, and utensils.
  • In the dining room: Trays are used to serve food and drinks, and they can also be used as decorative centerpieces.
  • In the living room: Trays are used to hold remote controls, magazines, and other items, and they can also be used as decorative accents.
  • In the bedroom: Trays are used to hold jewelry, perfumes, and other personal items.
  • In the bathroom: Trays are used to hold toiletries and other bathroom essentials.

The National Importance of Trays

Trays are not just an American invention; they have a long and rich history in many cultures around the world. In fact, trays have played an important role in many national traditions and customs. For example:

  • In Sweden, trays are an essential part of the traditional “fika” coffee break.
  • In Iceland, trays are used to serve the national dish “hakarl,” which is fermented shark meat.
  • In Germany, trays are used to serve the famous “Bier und Brezeln” (beer and pretzels).
  • In the United States, trays are used for everything from serving food to carrying items around the house.

The Reconstructed Proto-Germanic Language and Trays

The reconstructed Proto-Germanic language, which is the ancestor of many modern Germanic languages, including English, has a word for tray: “traujam.” This word is derived from the Proto-Indo-European root *deru-, which means “be firm, solid, steadfast,” with specialized senses “wood, tree” and derivatives referring to objects made of wood. The word “traujam” is related to the Old Swedish word “tro,” which means “a corn measure.” This shows that trays have been an important part of human life for a very long time.


Trays are a great way to serve food and drinks at parties and get-togethers. They’re also useful for carrying items around the house. 

So, don’t be afraid to use them for everything from breakfast to dinner to your next party!

I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Tools Doctor, content marketer, and dad. I love trying out new equipment, and together with my team I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with tools & crafting tips.