raths·​kel·​ler ˈrät-ˌske-lər How to pronounce rathskeller (audio)
: a usually basement tavern or restaurant

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Rathskeller is a product of Germany, deriving from two German nouns: Rat (also spelled Rath in early Modern German), which means "council," and Keller, which means "cellar." (Nouns in German are always capitalized.) The etymology reflects the fact that many early rathskellers were located in the basements of "council houses," which were equivalent to town halls. (The oldest rathskeller found in Germany today is said to date from the first half of the 13th century.) The earliest known use of rathskeller in English dates from 1766, but the word wasn't commonly used until the 1900s. Although the German word is now spelled Ratskeller, English writers have always preferred the spelling with the "h"-most likely to avoid any association with the word rat.

Examples of rathskeller in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The two-story home has 23 rooms, including a wine room, lower level gym, a spa and a rathskeller. Sarah Hauer, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 11 Nov. 2020 The stunning original rathskeller, or gathering space, for Schmidt Brewing remains intact downstairs. Jess Fleming, Twin Cities, 24 June 2019 The basement, with 10-foot ceilings, will be a kind of rathskeller, with barrel- and bottle-aging and a large table to be used for special events. Michael Klein, Philly.com, 17 May 2018 The latter will open this fall as a rathskeller and game room with shuffleboard and skeeball. Shauna Steigerwald, Cincinnati.com, 9 Aug. 2017

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'rathskeller.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


obsolete German (now Ratskeller), city-hall basement restaurant, from Rat council + Keller cellar

First Known Use

1766, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of rathskeller was in 1766


Dictionary Entries Near rathskeller

Cite this Entry

“Rathskeller.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rathskeller. Accessed 13 Jun. 2024.

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