Restaurateur vs. restauranteur

The French word for a person who owns or runs a restaurant is restaurateur, with no n, and this is the spelling used most often in English, especially in edited writing. Restauranteur, with an n, appears in English about once for every ten instances of restaurateur. But while this spelling is common and has a long history, many people consider it wrong.

The Oxford English Dictionary notes restauranteur as originally from the U.S. and lists examples from as far back as 1859, though a historical Google Books search covering the 19th century uncovers no more than a handful of instances of restauranteur. Many more examples are found in texts from the first half of the 20th century, including many from outside the U.S. Today, the misspelling appears about equally often throughout the English-speaking world.


Restauranteur occasionally finds its way into edited publications—for example:

We chatted with the 39-year-old chef and restauranteur about oyster-gate, his anxiety issues and his bromance with Fabio. [Entertainment Weekly]

The would-be restauranteur, Whisk Group, has finally given up the fight. [Washington City Paper]

And here, the word is spelled in the more conventional way:

A Brooklyn restaurateur, adopted as a baby, was shocked to learn his biological father is none other than “Motor City Madman” Ted Nugent. [New York Daily News]

Umberto was shot dead on the day he learned the restaurateur had died in a shooting. [Guardian]

18 thoughts on “Restaurateur vs. restauranteur”

  1. I am a professional translator and usually check frequence of word usage for the different dialectal varieties of Spanish by comparing the number ot sites that use one or another term of phrase in some specific domain (for example,,, etc.). It gives an objective, practical and updated orientation.

    No site from France uses “restauranteur”, the correct word is “restaurateur”. This is clear.

    However, in Mexico, where 26,700 sites use “restaurateur”, there are other 4,760 where the term displays with an “n”: “restauranteur”. But Mexico is a particular case, because they have a word, “restaurantero” which in other Spanish speaking areas does not exist or carries a derogatory tone.

    And now the surprise. In Argentina (my native country), the version with an “n” is almost 2.5 times more common 14,100 vs 5,780. And in spite of what the Grammariist sustains, in the US, only 14,300 sites use “restaurateur” while “restauranteur” displays in 32,900 sites. The version with an “n” sounds so familiar to my ears that, after an entire life as a journalist, author and professional translator in Latin America, Europe and finally in this country, I had never discovered before this inconsistency (how shameful, I have been several times in France and speak an acceptable French). I knew the two versions, of course, but they were equivalent for me. And I am 79 years old!

  2. The only reason to add the n is to be arrogantly American. What other French words can we bastardize? Eyeful Tower? The Loove? Moolan Rooge? Parlay voo Amurcan?

    • Practically EVERY word has been bastardized in some form or other, including words the French speak. “Arrogance” is believing that Americans need to speak/spell words in French while speaking/writing of things American. If Americans choose to spell the word with an “n” than THAT is how it’s spelled!

    • I didn’t see anywhere he claimed to speak for any group of Americans. You just made that up. Stop being so hyperreactive.

    • That doesn’t entitle you to spell like them. The two versions have variances in spelling, here and there. Your teachers were trying to break you out of an affectation.

      I had a high school classmate that affected a phony English accent, and looked like Jane Hathaway on THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES.

  3. Whether or not there is an ‘n’ at the end of a word like ‘restaurant’ is a moot point in French. The spoken word ends in a nasal schwa like pretty much every other word in French. The French have no trouble recognising retaurateur as having to do with restaurants while dropping the ‘n’. However English relies more on final consonants. We don’t easily recognise the restaurant in restaurateur. Indeed the word sounds like restorateur – perhaps someone who restores things.

    The central question is whether the word restaurateur was imported directly from the French, in which case we probably should spell it the way the French do, or whether only the root word ‘restaurant’ was imported with restauranteur beiong formed from restaurant using English conventions which involve hanging onto final consonants because, unlike the French, we actually pronounce them.

    • It’s the other way round – the word “restaurant” comes from the verb “restaurer” meaning to restore or to eat when used with the reflexive (that is “se restaurer”). The incorrect usage – restauranteur – is an overcorrection of the french restaurateur which people assume needs an “n” to align with restaurant, yet the “ant” at the end is not part of the root in french. “Restauranteur” is simply wrong – some people argue that “if we use it in english, it is right”. There is certainly a blurred line there and maybe restauranteur will come to be accepted, but that would be a shame as we need some standardisation to keep a common understanding. Udder wize, wear whill yt end?

      • The word “restaurer” was not imported into English. Only the word “restaurant”. In English “restaurant” therefore becomes the root, a standalone word for a particular type of eating establishment, as it is not a derivation of any other English word. To ask English speakers to form derivations of the English word “restaurant” by harking back to “restaurer”, a French word not adopted into English, is to expect speakers of English to know French.

        • That would be a good argument, except that “restaurer” was also imported from French into English and the people who use restauranteur are just making an incorrect assumption… :)

          • I’m not convinced that the French word restaurer was imported into English.. Could you demonstrate by using it in a sentence?

            Collins has this to say about the word: “Sorry, no results for “restaurer” in the Collins English Dictionary.”

            Oxford lists the word, but only as an obsolete and rare alternative spelling for the word “restorer”. It gives three quotes with this meaning.

            1557 Bible (Whittingham)
            Epist. *iiii,
            Iesus Christ,..who shulde be..geuen to men to be the restaurer of the worlde.

            a1649 W. Drummond Hist. Scotl. (1655) 123
            Restaurers of the Common-wealth, amongst whose pawes the present King could not be assured and safe.

            1778 T. Warton Let. 28 Oct. in Corr. (1995) III. 411
            Juan Gines de Sepulveda..was a great Restaurer of Learning in Spain.

            As you can see these come from a time when spelling in English was flexible. I think it no coincidence that the last quote dates from the 18th century around the time that spelling started to become standardised.

      • It ends in new languages, inevitably. It always has. Probably neither of us wants this to happen, but it will nonetheless. We won’t be around to complain about it.

        I’ve long thought French will survive in several African countries long after the people of France have moved on. With the shotgun immigration in Europe, it looks like a certainty.

  4. The only way that “restaurateur” makes an iota of sense is if restaurants were suddenly and insanely called restaurats. See how that works? It’s “RESTAURANTEUR” !


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