When it comes to words related to food, it’s easy to think that English probably takes second place behind French, which has given us a whole glossary of culinary terms from ingredients and elements (béchamel, mirepoix, bouquet garni) to cooking methods and processes (fricassée, au gratin, chiffonade), to complete dishes and delicacies (cassoulet, apéritif, amuse-bouche, crudités). But what English lacks in words for dishes and delicacies, it more than makes up for in words to do with the end result—eating and enjoying food. Expand your vocabulary with these 23 words for food-lovers.
Nowadays, the word junket tends only to be used to refer to political or press junkets—trips for politicians or journalists, at another’s expense, for promotional purposes. At one time, however, a junket was a vast merrymaking feast or banquet, where food and drink were consumed in large amounts; that meaning derives from the earlier 16th-century use of junket to refer to a dainty sweet treat or delicacy.
2., 3., 4., and 5. Bouffage, Spreadation, Waffle-Frolic, and Belly-Cheer
Another word for a grand feast is bouffage, a term from the 17th century derived from an older French word for “any meat that (eaten greedily) fills the mouth and makes the cheeks to swell,” according to 17th century lexicographer Randle Cotgrave. Feel free also to call a large meal or fine food a spreadation (19th century), a waffle-frolic (18th-century American English), and belly-cheer (16th-century English).
6., 7., and 8. Gut-Gullie, Gut-Foundered, and Gut-Head
Gut has been used to mean the stomach (or, originally, the abdomen and its contents) since the Old English period, and is the root of a host of gluttonous words like gut-foundered, which means hungry to the point of near starvation; gut-head, a 17th-century word for someone who appears dull and slow-witted from overeating; and gut-gullie, an old Scots dialect verb meaning “to overeat” or “eat greedily.”
Noah Webster gave two definitions for a smell-feast. One was “a feast at which the guests are supposed to feed upon the odors only of the viands,” but the word’s original meaning, dating back to the early 16th century, is “one who is apt to find and frequent good tables”—in other words, a scrounger or moocher who steals your food or expects you to feed them. And if you know anyone like that, you’ll likely need to the know the word ...
The linnard is the last member of a group to finish their meal. An 18th-century dialect word from the southwest of England, traditionally the linnard would have their tardiness punished by being made to clean up afterwards.
Tarnisher is an old Scots and Irish dialect word for a huge meal.
13., 14., and 15. Forenoons, Postpast, and Antepast
The forenoon is the portion of the day between waking up in the morning and midday, which makes a forenoons a brunch or a light snack taken between breakfast and lunch. A small snack eaten immediately after a meal, meanwhile, is a postpast, the opposite of which is an antepast, eaten as an appetizer or starter.
Dating back to the 15th century (and derived from the same root as words like satiate and satisfy), to rassasy someone is to satisfy them with a great meal, or else to satiate someone’s hunger with food.
The adjective speustic first appeared in a 17th-century dictionary called Glossographia (1656) by the English lexicographer Thomas Blount. Sadly, it doesn’t seem to have caught on—the Oxford English Dictionary has unearthed no other record of the word in print since, but that’s not to say that it isn’t worth remembering: It very usefully describes any meal or plate of food that’s cooked or thrown together in haste.
Derived from the verb assuage, meaning to ease or alleviate, swage is an old British dialect word that can be used to mean to take in food, to let your stomach settle, or, most importantly, “to relax after a good meal.” A swager, incidentally, is a long, thirst-quenching drink.
Speaking of swaging, what better place to do it than a triclinium? A Latin word essentially meaning “three couches,” a triclinium was a Roman dining room or dining table at which guests would not sit on individual seats or benches, but rather long couches, or chaises longues.
20., 21., and 22. Abbiocco, Une saignée d’Allemand, and Ivik
And so long as we’re including words from other languages, the Italian word abbiocco means “the feeling of drowsiness that follows a big meal.” To have a “German bleeding,” or une saignée d’Allemand, is an old French slang term meaning “to loosen tight clothes after a large meal” (and is probably based on the heartiness of German cuisine). The Inuktitut word ivik is used by some Canadian Inuit for the grease that’s left on your hands after eating with your fingers.
So-called because it’s an exceptionally useful word for Christmastime, the Yule-hole is the hole you have to move your belt buckle to after you’ve eaten an enormous meal. And if you don’t, you’re not doing Christmas right.
A version of this story ran in 2016; it has been updated for 2023.