AskDefine | Define bistro

Dictionary Definition

bistro n : a small informal restaurant; serves wine

User Contributed Dictionary

see Bistro



From bistro.
The French etymology is unclear (see Étymologie at French Wiktionary), and is presumed to come from a regional word: bistro, bistrot, bistingo, or bistraud, a word in the Poitou dialect which means a "lesser servant." Another offered is bistouille or bistrouille, a colloquial term from the northern area of France, which is a mixture of brandy and coffee; precisely the kind of beverage that could be served at a bistro.
The first recorded use of the word appears in 1884,, and again in 1892 ("bistrot").
There is a folk etymology that the word originated from Russian troops who occupied Paris following the Napoleonic wars, and shouted бы́стро [ˈbɨstrə]—meaning "quickly" in Russian—to the waiters, so "bistro" meant a place where food was served quickly.
This etymology is rejected, due to the 69 year gap between the proposed origin and the first attestation. Further, in Russia restaurants were not traditionally called "bistro", and the word "bistro" as used in Russian is seen as a French import, unrelated to the supposed Russian origin.


  1. a small European restaurant
  2. a small bar


small European restaurant
small bar

See also


Extensive Definition

A bistro is a small restaurant serving moderately-priced simple meals in a modest setting. The concept developed in Paris, France. Bistros are defined mostly by the foods they serve. Slow-cooked foods like braised meats are typical.
The word "bistro" may derive from the Russian быстро (bystro) which means quick. According to an urban legend, it entered the French language during the Russian occupation of Paris in 1815. Cossacks who wanted to be served quickly would shout bistro. Another version is that it is an abbreviation of bistrouille, a French term for brandy mixed with coffee.
bistro in German: Bistro
bistro in Spanish: Bistró
bistro in French: Bistro
bistro in Italian: Bistrot
bistro in Hebrew: ביסטרו
bistro in Dutch: Bistro
bistro in Norwegian: Bistro
bistro in Polish: Bistro
bistro in Portuguese: Bistrô
bistro in Russian: Бистро
bistro in Swedish: Bistro

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

alehouse, automat, bar, barrel house, barroom, beanery, beer garden, beer parlor, blind tiger, buffet, buvette, cabaret, cafe, cafeteria, canteen, cantina, chophouse, chuck wagon, cocktail lounge, coffee shop, coffeehouse, coffeeroom, cookhouse, cookshack, cookshop, diner, dining hall, dining room, discotheque, dive, dog wagon, dramshop, drinking saloon, drive-in, drive-in restaurant, eatery, eating house, fast-food chain, gin mill, grill, grillroom, groggery, grogshop, hamburger stand, hash house, hashery, honky-tonk, hot-dog stand, kitchen, local, lunch counter, lunch wagon, luncheonette, lunchroom, mess hall, night spot, nightclub, nitery, pizzeria, pothouse, pub, public, public house, quick-lunch counter, rathskeller, restaurant, rumshop, saloon, saloon bar, smorgasbord, snack bar, speakeasy, supper club, taproom, tavern, tearoom, trattoria, watering place, wine shop
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