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Bon appétit

French expressions analyzed and explained

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Bon appétit Vincent Besnault / Getty
Expression: Bon appétit

Pronunciation: [bo na pay tee]

Meaning: enjoy your meal

Literal translation: good appetite

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Notes: Before I moved to France, people were always telling me that no one says bon appétit anymore, or that only a certain economic class still uses the term, or some other criticism of this expression. But it's not true - on the contrary, I discovered that bon appétit is used even more than I'd expected. I hear it at dinner parties, in restaurants, on the plane, on the train, while picnicking in the park, even in the hallway of my apartment with no food in sight. I hear it from friends, waiters, passers-by, people I know and people I don't. Basically anyone I see around mealtime wishes me a polite bon appétit, whether I'll be eating with them or not. And this is not limited to Provence or to small towns; I've heard bon appétit pretty much everywhere I've traveled in France (which is pretty much everywhere).

Bon appétit is often used in English, especially by Francophiles. The literal translation sounds strange, and the best English equivalent, "Enjoy your meal," just doesn't have the same ring to it. In contrast, other European languages use their literal translations, though not necessarily as much as the French say bon appétit:
  • Catalan: Bon profit
  • German: Guten Appetit
  • Italian: Buon appetito
  • Portuguese: Bom apetite
  • Spanish: Buen apetito (though Buen provecho is more common)
 
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