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 But four school days later, the same student was served a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the cafeteria. oregonlive, "Beaverton School District pays $119,500 to settle suit filed by parents who said school failed to protect kindergartener with severe allergies," 25 Dec. 2019 Once a month, a local church group comes to cook a meal, giving Ronald McDonald House families a break from eating all their meals in the cafeteria. Anchorage Daily News, "Putting the ‘happy’ in the holidays for hospital patients," 18 Dec. 2019 In the cafeteria not long after — as select students displayed their rainbow flags on their backpacks, in their hair or carried them through hallways — a few disagreeing classmates proudly held up a large Confederate flag. Benjamin Vanhoose,, "Missouri High Schoolers Fly Confederate Flag in Cafeteria After Classmates Hand Out Pride Flags," 17 Dec. 2019 Instead, a somber Mr. Corbyn was seen hugging his allies in the cafeteria of a sports and recreation facility in north London in the early hours of Friday, on his way to announce that his quest for power was over. Stephen Castle, New York Times, "Battered U.K. Labour Party Ponders Next Move, as Corbyn Plans Exit," 13 Dec. 2019 On a recent afternoon, about 20 seniors gathered in a room next to the cafeteria. Brooks Barnes, New York Times, "Lights. Camera. Senior Center?," 22 Dec. 2019 The controversial actions by cafeteria workers were captured on video and shared to social media, prompting outrage over a policy that school officials said was implemented for the first time on Monday. Rachel Desantis,, "Principal Admits School 'Absolutely Failed' by Trashing Hot Meals of Students with Lunch Debt," 13 Nov. 2019 On one side, a large garage door opens to the cafeteria. Emma Kate Fittes, Indianapolis Star, "Take a sneak peek inside HSE's new Southeastern Elementary School," 22 July 2019 When the ambulance arrived at the hospital, Couch got out of the ambulance and walked to the cafeteria, according to the sheriff. Chris Stirewalt, Fox News, "St. Beto and the August altar call," 30 Aug. 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

Time Traveler for cafeteria

Time Traveler

The first known use of cafeteria was in 1894

See more words from the same year

Statistics for cafeteria

Last Updated

20 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Cafeteria.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 23 January 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for cafeteria


How to pronounce cafeteria (audio)

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).


out of the ordinary or unreasonable

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Intact Latin Quiz

  • roman tablet
  • What did focus mean in Latin?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Add Diction

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!