À la carte

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Steak à la carte

À la carte /ɑːləˈkɑːrt/[1] is an English language loan phrase meaning "according to the menu."[2][3] It was adopted from French in the early 19th century and refers to "food that can be ordered as separate items, rather than part of a set meal."[4]

The phrase is used in reference to a menu of items priced and ordered separately, which is the usual operation of restaurants. That is in contrast to a table d'hôte, in which a menu has limited or no choice of items and is served at a fixed price.[5] It may also be used to order an item from the menu on its own: a steak without potatoes and other vegetables is steak à la carte.


The earliest examples of à la carte in writing are from 1816 for the adjectival use ("à la carte meal", for example) and from 1821 for the adverbial use ("meals were served à la carte").[2] These pre-date the use of the word menu which came into English in the 1830s.[6][7][2]

Other uses[edit]

More broadly, the term is not exclusive to food. Today, it can be used in reference to things such as television. To watch television à la carte refers to paying for a provider where the viewer can choose from an option of programs to watch (e.g. Netflix or Hulu), instead of watching from set programs.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "A la carte". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005.  (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. ^ a b c Oxford English Dictionary
  3. ^ "à la carte – definition of à la carte in English from the Oxford dictionary". oxforddictionaries.com. Retrieved 2 May 2016. 
  4. ^ "à la carte – definition of à la carte in 0English from the Oxford dictionary". oxforddictionaries.com. Retrieved 2 May 2016. 
  5. ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary". etymonline.com. Retrieved 2 May 2016. 
  6. ^ Richard Bailey, Eating Words, Michigan Today, 13 May 2008. Archived 25 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  7. ^ "Menu", The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th edition, Houghton Mifflin
  8. ^ "A-la-Carte Cable TV Is Basically Here (It's Just Not on Cable)". The Simple Dollar. Retrieved 2 May 2016. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]