Serviette or napkin

serviette is a piece of cloth or paper used to clean one’s hands and face while eating. It is pronounced (sir vee ette) and is used outside of the United States. Usually it is listed as a Canadian term, but is used and understood in other countries as well.

Inside the United States, the same item is called a napkin, which is understood in other countries, though sometimes they designate the difference between a table napkin and a sanitary napkin.

sanitary napkin is used by women in their undergarments to hold the blood passed during their menstrual cycle. This term is used mostly in countries where English is a second language. Other names for this item include sanitary towel, sanitary pad, or simply pad.


Webster Lucas says staff at the McDonalds in Pacoima only gave him one serviette with his Quarter Pounder deluxe and when he asked for extra ones the manager refused, saying he’d already been given one. [ Australia]

No, Rexach says he will go down in Barcelona’s history because one day he signed Lionel Messi – on a serviette. [The Guardian]

To finish off, we had Christmas pudding, thoughtfully imported by a visiting British friend, Janet, along with Marks & Spencer’s printed tablecloths and matching serviettes. [The Telegraph]

Procter & Gamble (P&G), which manufactures ‘Whisper’, has failed to secure a patent in India for an invention regarding a sanitary napkin that claims to signal the wearer indications on its status. [The New Indian Express]

6 thoughts on “Serviette or napkin”

  1. I hate it when my sister says ” I’ve got some eggs at home”, instead of the more correct “I have some eggs at home”. which is correct?

    • the former is much more colloquial if i’m not mistaken and not very correct, yet still understood by most and most probably used by most

    • “I’ve got” is a pretty tight and colloquially common fused phraselet. Personally, being American and all, I don’t even hear the have part. To me, “I’ve got” means “I am in possession of”, and is distinct from “I have”.

      I have some eggs could mean 5,000 miles away.I’ve got some eggs means here, now, in the present.

      I have some Picassos … 5000 miles away in my gallery.I’ve got some ducks … in the back yard. They’re cute.



  2. A possible typo from the Grammarist?

    At least as I understand the notion, when one puts a pronunciation in parentheses, the parts shown are to have all-letters-pronounced.

    Serviette (pron: ser vee et) would be correct, would it not? We wouldn’t use the perfectly correct ‘vi’ because so many people my say ‘vie’ (long I). And yes, ‘sir’ and ‘ser’ and ‘sur’ are all equally interchangeable since noone pronounces ‘sir’ as ‘sire’ or ‘sur’ as in the French rolled u followed by rhotic r business.

    But ette? I heard ‘et-tee’ in my head. Hence … why I post.

    Thanks for all you do, author-of-this-blog. Love it!


  3. 1974, Swan Inn, Lavenham, England. “Miss, please bring my friend a napkin.” “Oh, but sir…!” “Is there a problem?, Bring her a napkin,” I naively insisted. Sorry, Debby, wherever you are; I’ll not make that mistake again.

    • British born and brought up I can assure you that napkin is the word of preference (see Nancy Mitford U and Non-U). Also “have got” is correct British English, not colloquial or familiar in any way, in the past tense “got”. (I have got good marks in my exam, I got good marks in my exam). “Can I get” when ordering on the other hand is not acceptable.


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