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

Specifically, Soboroff shared photographs of boys called to a cafeteria to eat in shifts, appearing to show wristbands scanned by officials when taking their meals. Michelle Ruiz, Vogue, "The First Look Into a Trump Administration Shelter for Migrant Boys Is Deeply Disturbing," 14 June 2018 Nichole Burcal followed her son through the familiar halls to the cafeteria. Maxine Bernstein,, "Thurston 20 years later: 'The sad thing is, once affected, always affected'," 20 May 2018 The 28-day plan had her choosing her own breakfast — usually oatmeal with banana from the office cafeteria — and snacks (like trail mix), and then eating prepared meals for lunch and dinner. Caroline Picard, Good Housekeeping, "A Plant-Based Diet, Like the One TODAY's Sheinelle Jones Is Following, Is 100% the Best Way to Eat," 29 Apr. 2019 The food for Woodland students will come in part from the Elkhart Schools' own cafeteria system. Caroline Picard, Good Housekeeping, "A School Is Turning Its Leftover Cafeteria Food Into Frozen Take-Home Meals for Kids," 5 Apr. 2019 She was inspired by a cafeteria manager at a school in Virginia who had done the same last year. Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "Meghan Markle Writes Heartwarming Notes to Women on Bananas," 1 Feb. 2019 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

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about cafeteria

Statistics for cafeteria

Last Updated

9 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for cafeteria

The first known use of cafeteria was in 1894

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for cafeteria



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

Keep scrolling for more

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 move with exaggerated bouncy motions

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Finance Words Quiz

  • a-piggy-bank
  • The etymology of mortgage is related most closely to which two words?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!