caf·​e·​te·​ria | \ ˌka-fə-ˈtir-ē-ə How to pronounce cafeteria (audio) \

Definition of cafeteria

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a restaurant in which the customers serve themselves or are served at a counter and take the food to tables to eat



Definition of cafeteria (Entry 2 of 2)

: providing a selection from which a choice may be made cafeteria benefit plan a cafeteria curriculum

Examples of cafeteria in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Grismilda Guzmán, a 64-year-old retired school cafeteria worker who lives in Guaynabo, said her electricity bill has steadily climbed over the years. Andrew Scurria And Arian Campo-flores, WSJ, "Puerto Rico Picks Bidders for Ailing Power Utility," 20 Jan. 2019 Jaylen Fryberg, a 15-year-old student, killed four classmates and wounded a fifth at a cafeteria table before shooting himself. Heidi Groover, The Seattle Times, "Justice Department expands access to federal databases for Washington state tribes," 22 Oct. 2018 Bonus: Parents who want to watch their kids’ lessons from the lodge’s patio or one of its two cafeterias, but don’t want to ski themselves, won’t have to buy a lift ticket to go up. Alex Postman, Condé Nast Traveler, "If You're Skiing the Rockies This Winter, Read This First," 4 Dec. 2018 More than an hour after the shooting, he and his colleagues were huddled in place in their cafeteria, away from windows. Todd Richmond, Fox News, "Active shooter reported at business in Madison suburb," 19 Sep. 2018 An example of this method in practice is one the author Duhigg gives of breaking his habit of eating a large cookie in his workplace cafeteria every afternoon. Paul C. Brunson, USA TODAY, "Paul C. Brunson: These 3 books are the best ever written on self-control and willpower," 5 July 2018 Ann Richardson, Johnson’s mother, worked in his school cafeteria in order to be close to him. David Freedlander, Daily Intelligencer, "The Man Who Is Glitterbombing New York City Politics," 8 Apr. 2018 Leon High School would offer its cafeteria for a welcoming pizza and ice cream party. Mary Ellen Klas, miamiherald, "This senator turned her trauma into action. Now she’s showing Douglas students how. | Miami Herald," 22 Feb. 2018 But before the ad appeared, Riley Hospital had decided to discontinue hot dogs from its patient menus and review whether to keep offering them in its public cafeteria, a hospital representative said. Shari Rudavsky, Indianapolis Star, "Ad asks Riley to stop serving hot dogs; hospital says it was planning to anyway," 20 Feb. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'cafeteria.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of cafeteria


1894, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1908, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for cafeteria


American Spanish cafetería coffeehouse, from cafetera coffee maker, from French cafetière, from café

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Statistics for cafeteria

Last Updated

14 Apr 2019

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Time Traveler for cafeteria

The first known use of cafeteria was in 1894

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English Language Learners Definition of cafeteria

: a place (such as a restaurant or a room in a school) where people get food at a counter and carry it to a table for eating


caf·​e·​te·​ria | \ ˌka-fə-ˈtir-ē-ə How to pronounce cafeteria (audio) \

Kids Definition of cafeteria

: a place where people get food at a counter and carry it to a table for eating a school cafeteria

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Comments on cafeteria

What made you want to look up cafeteria? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a secret plot to overthrow a government

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