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The meaning and origin of the expression: A la carte

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A la carte

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What's the meaning of the phrase 'A la carte'?

'A la carte' means 'on the menu', with each dish separately priced.

What's the origin of the phrase 'A la carte'?

A la carte'A la carte' is a French term. It is one of the French phrases used in English that even those of us who don't speak French could make a stab at translating. The literal translation is 'according to the card' (the 'card' is the menu card).

The French spelling is 'À la carte' but the accent is rarely used in English.

'A la carte' applies to meals that are ordered in a restaurant as separate items. Each item has a specified price, as distinct from a 'table d'hôte' meal, which has a fixed inclusive price.

The date of the earliest French usage isn't known. The expression began to be used in English in the early 19th century. The first citation I know of is Joseph Sherer's Notes and Reflections During a Ramble in Germany, 1826:

"He will find comfortable apartments, civil attendance, excellent fare, à la carte, at any hour."

See also - other French phrases in English.