à la carte

The phrase à la carte is a loan word from the French. Loanwords and loan phrases are terms that have been taken from other languages and used as English words and phrases. Another term for a loanword is a borrowed word. Loanwords and loan phrases come into the English language when English speakers come into contact with other languages and cultures. When loanwords and loan phrases first enter the English language, they are used by bilingual speakers and usually maintain the original pronunciation from the source language. As other English speakers adopt the loanwords and loan phrases, the pronunciation may change to incorporate sounds more in keeping with the English speakers’ accents. A foreign word evolves into a loanword when it is adopted into the vocabulary of the average English speaker, not just English speakers who come into contact with the source language and culture.We will examine the definition of à la carte where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

The phrase à la carte means that dishes in a restaurant may be ordered separately from the menu. For instance, one may choose an appetizer, a main course, a salad, side dishes or dessert separately according to one’s tastes. The term à la carte comes from a revolution in restaurant fare that occurred sometime around the turn of the nineteenth century. Before this time, a restaurant would offer its meals table d’hôte, which describes a meal that is preselected and served to everyone partaking, with no options other than to eat what is put before you. The phrase table d’hôte translates as “table of the host”. The expression à la carte translates as “according to the card”, which in this case, refers to the menu. Today, almost all restaurants in English-speaking countries serve a menu that is à la carte. The term came into the English language during the 1820s, and has evolved to refer to things that are not associated with eating, restaurants or menus. For instance, cable television services that allow the patron to choose which channels to buy, rather than offering service to all channels for a set price, is called à la carte. Though properly rendered with an accent mark above the first a, the term is often spelled without the accent mark as in a la carte.


Instead of an a la carte menu, Kobayashi only offers the chef’s choice each night, which he said he prefers because he knows what tastes best and what he wants to cook. (The Daily Emerald)

The pitch appears to be falling flat, with customers preferring to simply stream content on Netflix as opposed to buying things on an a la carte basis. (Variety Magazine)

As Discovery’s CEO answered that question, he opened up about the possible future of an a la carte direct to consumer option. (Cord Cutters News)

Order à la carte favorites like lobster hash and polenta waffles, or opt for the three-course tasting that closes with a lemon ricotta cookie ice cream sandwich. (Las Vegas Magazine)

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