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.
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