This morning I posted a picture of my usual breakfast on Instagram. I look forward to my breakfast every day, but especially in weekends when I get to have breakfast together with my husband and daughter. On work days they are still in bed when I leave the house, so then I have breakfast alone. Nevertheless, I always take plenty of time to really enjoy every bit of it.
Since it’s Wednesday and because I realized that nearly every language I know has a completely different word for breakfast, I decided to make it the word of the week. In this post I will show you the word for breakfast in seven different languages and explain where those words come from.
The meaning of the word is quite obvious. Having breakfast means “breaking the nightly fast”.
Dutch : het ontbijt
The Dutch word consists of two parts: The prefix “ont” that can have different meanings, but in this case stands for “starting something”, plus the old middle-Dutch “biten” that means “to bite” or “to eat”. So literally it translates to “starting to eat”. Originally this was used for several small meals or snacks throughout the day. Only since the beginning of last century it became limited to the first meal of the day.
Breakfast habits in the Netherlands vary from cheese and ham sandwiches to crackers with marmalade, healthy smoothies, yogurt with oatmeal or breakfast cereals. In weekends breakfast is often more elaborate with fried eggs, toast or even pancakes.
German: das Frühstück
“Früh” means “early” and “Stück” means “piece”. In the 15th Century the word Frühstück was used for a piece of bread eaten early in the morning.
The Swedish word is a combination of the German word “früh” meaning “early” and the Swedish word “kost” meaning “food” or “meal”
French: le petit déjeuner
The word déjeuner actually has a quite similar meaning to the English breakfast. It literally translates to “stop (de-) the fast (le jeûne)”
In some regions in France the word déjeuner is used for the second and often largest meal of the day. That’s why breakfast is usually referred to as petit or “small” déjeuner.
Spanish: el desayuno
In Spanish the origins are the same as in French. El ayuno means fasting, so desayunar means stopping the fast by having something to eat in the morning.
The Italian word is completely different from the words in the other Latin languages. The word colazione comes from the old Latin collatiònem, meaning “to collect” and used in the 4th Century referring to a short meal that was used together by the monks in monasteries after the evening prayer. The monks would “bring together” (collect) small portions of food and share it among each other. Later this meal was moved to after the morning prayers.