Posted by: Casey Lybrand | August 18, 2010

When spellcheck fails, learn the etymology? The Word “Restaurant”

So that night, I did dine like 'twas 1399.

So that night, I did dine like 'twas 1399. by gak, on Flickr

The spouse was wondering about the word restaurant, and how to spell it. Specifically, the spouse was sitting in a restaurant, trying to tweet about it with a smart phone, and wondering how to spell the word. Three adults at the table, and none of us could spell restaurant without spellcheck — which none of us had available at the moment. [1]

Let’s pause to spare a thought for our poor English teachers. Ah, well, they tried.

Moving on: let’s look at the word restaurant for our Word of the Week! [2]

Understanding where a word comes from can sometimes help me remember how to spell it. The spouse feels the same way, and suggested that restaurant may be related to the word taurus. [3] I thought “to restore”.

Some of us can parallel park moving vans, some of us can guess Latin roots. It takes all kinds. [4]


The Online Etymological Dictionary says of restaurant:

… from Fr. restaurant … originally “food that restores,” … restaurer “to restore or refresh,” from O.Fr. restorer

… and then sends us off to the word restore, which comes from Latin.

restaurō – “to restore, repair”

Remember when we looked at revelation, by way of apocalypse? We saw that re– means “a turning back”. That’s what it means in restaurō as well.

What about –staurō? The root sta– sits at the heart of the Latin word restaurō. The root sta– means “to stand”. Restaurō essentially means “to stand back up”. To restore.

Latin restaurō -> Old French restorer -> French restaurer -> French, then English restaurant

When you go to a restaurant, you restore yourself with a lovely meal.

Stand back for the footnotes:

1: I got to the correct spelling first — yay! — by breaking out the predictive text feature on my (non-smart) phone. Alas, the tweet had already been tweeted with the incorrect spelling. C’est la vie.

2: You all like “Word of the Week“? I like it a bit better than “Word Wednesday”, so I’m changing the tag. Still on Wednesday!

3: At a glance, I can’t tell if there is a connection between –
staurō and taurus. I’m not really a Latin scholar. Or a Greek scholar. Let’s look at some more Latin and Greek anyway:

σταυρός (stauro) – “stake, pale” or “cross” [as in a crucifix, a device of execution]

Then there’s this:

tau – “the [Latin] name of the Greek T”

Is there a there, there, with the stake (upright, a cross), and the Latin name for the Greek T (something upright, crossed) and the word
taurus? I guess it’s not impossible, but I don’t have it fully worked out. I’m pretty sure taurus has some “to grow” or size-related background. Not that all these things are mutually exclusive. (If there’s oodles of interest, I can look into it more.)

At the very least, you can use the
taur –> restaurant mnemonic if it helps you with the spelling!

4: And some of us (who are
not me) can speak not one, but two foreign languages, neither of them Romance. So some of us (who are me) don’t really have room to talk. Hi, sweetie!

Okay, it’s Spouse of Awesomeness Story Time!

You know how sometimes Flickr pages are not in English? Because photography is an worldwide online phenomenon, yay! Well, while I was looking at photos for this post, I ran across a Flickr photo description written in one of the languages the Resident Polyglot (RP) speaks. Here’s how it went:

Me: Vondershones!

RP: *bug eyes* No wait, what?

Me: I’m reading in German: von-der-sho-nes. Here, I’ll read the whole thing, and you can tell me what it means! “Ick vees–”

RP: That’s– um. How about I just look at it instead?


  1. LOL I always love your footnotes, but this week’s in particular. Which languages does Resident Polyglot speak?

    Do you speak any foreign languages at all?

  2. Ja, sehr gut! ;-)

    (I tried learning German three times, could not get it and so the only thing I can do is count up to 100 in German.

    Word of the Week is good title! I like.

    Very interesting about restaurant and how food restores! Wow, I’d never thought of that. Very cool (I’m hungry now lol)

    Curious about the Taurus bit…because yours truly is a a Taurean.

  3. How very interesting! No wonder we love going to restaurants! Thank you for sharing.

  4. I thought I was the only one who couldn’t spell restaurant :) But good for you for getting the correct spelling first!
    haha Casey I LOVE the footnotes and I like “word of the week” better!

  5. I love that restaurant comes from restore – a good reminder of why we eat in general, and especially the pleasures of eating at a restaurant.

  6. Kieran, I am so glad you like the footnotes! I have fun with them.

    German is one of the Resident Polyglot’s languages, hence the pained response to my butchering of the pronunciation. There’s also Ukrainian and — though there may be some resistance to this last one because it’s not a strong knowledge, but I have *heard* the conversations — Russian. Awesome.

    My languages? English. Fluent! I have studied French and Spanish. I spoke Spanish at a child-level understanding when I was a child — but I’ve lost most of it since. (I can understand a fair amount of spoken conversation, and I can read a bit of simple Spanish.)

    I have just enough Latin and Ancient Greek to be dangerous on the internet. And to help me with casual understandings of etymology, even before looking up words.

    When I was in Russia (without the Spouse of Awesomeness, who was looking after the children: awesome), I struggled mightily to get by with a few phrases.

    I mentioned to Lua a little while ago, I have a life goal to acquire another language and keep it. :)

    Do you have any other languages, Kieran? I love hearing about languages: there is no language-related “off-topic” on etymology/language posts!

    Alannah, You have more German than I do then! Numbers are fun. Glad you liked the post. I may do something on tau/taurus. I’m curious now, myself.

    Carol Ann, glad you liked it! The French were on to something with the whole “restaurant” thing.

    Lua, Hee! Not the only one at all! I only got the spelling because I essentially looked it up: started typing into predictive text, and the word completed for me. (My spelling is atrocious.)

    I’m so glad you enjoyed the footnotes! They are sometimes my favorite part.

    And “Word of the Week” it is now! Thank you, Alannah and Lua!

    Layla, I love it, too! There’s a lot that’s restorative about a good meal, especially with good company.

  7. Fluently I speak English and Spanish, and I’m currently learning Irish Gaelic. I actually did a whole post on languages, why they fascinate me, etc. Here’s a link. :-)

  8. Kieran, that is so cool! Great post, too.

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