À la carte

For other uses, see À la carte (disambiguation).
For the custom car, see Ala Kart (custom car).
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, i.e., the usual operation of restaurants. This is in contrast to a table d'hôte, where 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, e.g., a steak without the potatoes and 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

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 (i.e. Netflix or HBO), instead of watching from set programs.[8]

See also


  1. "A la carte". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. 1 2 3 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". The Simple Dollar. Retrieved 2 May 2016.

Further reading

Look up à la carte in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
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