caf·​e·​te·​ria | \ ˌka-fə-ˈtir-ē-ə \

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

In some cases, cafeteria workers have thrown out the meals children with negative balances order. Nadra Nittle, Vox, "How states and crowdfunding are tackling the growing problem of student lunch debt," 27 Dec. 2018 The schools appreciate that Moses handles the ordering, payment, pickup and food distribution in the cafeteria. Melissa Kossler Dutton,, "Food delivery services aim to take school lunch pressure off parents," 10 July 2018 Competitive pay for support staff, such as paraprofessionals, cafeteria workers, aides and bus drivers, was one of the Arizona Educators United group's five demands. Ricardo Cano, azcentral, "Pay raises for teachers, staff vary across Arizona school districts after #RedForEd," 3 June 2018 At the Gomes Elementary School in New Bedford, the number of students eating breakfast has soared since 2015 when the school shifted breakfast time from the cafeteria, where it was served before the opening bell, to the classroom. James Vaznis,, "Boston makes little progress on school breakfast goal," 3 May 2018 Earlier this month, Michael Lee, 32, offered another inmate at the Lake County Jail 20 meal trays from the facility’s cafeteria and $2,000 if the fellow inmate would agree to be his hitman, deputies said. Jared Gilmour, miamiherald, "Florida inmate says ‘idiot’ blockmate offered him 20 meal trays to kill his ex-wife | Miami Herald," 12 Apr. 2018 Many refuse to eat meat from the cafeteria, believing it hasn't been prepared according to religious guidelines, the prison official said. Fox News, "Iraq holds more than 19,000 on Islamic State, militant links," 21 Mar. 2018 Many refuse to eat meat from the cafeteria, believing it hasn’t been prepared according to religious guidelines, the prison official said. Washington Post, "Iraq holding more than 19,000 because of IS, militant ties," 21 Mar. 2018 The Walmart was gutted, redesigned and renovated into a kind of mini-city, with murals, classrooms, medical offices, on-call physicians, work cubicles, movie theaters, a barbershop and a cafeteria. New York Times, "The Billion-Dollar Business of Operating Shelters for Migrant Children," 21 June 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

20 Jan 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 \

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).


to gather or build up little by little

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