from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A small, informal restaurant serving wine.
  • noun A small bar, tavern, or nightclub.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun a small informal restaurant, especially one serving alcoholic beverages.
  • noun a nightclub.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun A small European-style restaurant.
  • noun A small bar or pub.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun a small informal restaurant; serves wine


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[French bistro or bistrot, tavern owner, tavern.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Attested from c. 1920, from the French bistro(t) with the original meaning "proprietor of a tavern" (1880s), of Unknown origin, presumably regional French dialect.


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  • From the Russian for "fast," or so I've always heard, which the French adopted for a place to get a quick bite to eat.

    December 16, 2006

  • That etymology is disputed. Bistro at Wikipedia

    December 16, 2006

  • Aha! One of the most interesting kinds of etymology. Thanks for bringing that to my attention.

    December 18, 2006

  • A friend told me the word "bistro" comes from the Russian word for quick or fast. The implication is that the food at a bistro is served more quickly than in a restaurant. Although my Russian dictionary does have a similar looking word, I am dubious about the etymology.

    April 19, 2009

  • The Russian word for fast is ?????? (which roughly equates to "bistro"). But this account of the etymology is not to do with the service being faster - almost the opposite. When the Russians occupied Paris in 1814, soldiers would sit at tables in the cafes and shout "bistro!" at the waiters to try and get served quicker.

    Although it's quite possible that the Russian soldiers behaved in that way, it's unlikely that this is in fact the origin of the word in French, as there is no recorded use of the word bistro in the French language until 70 years later, in 1884.

    June 26, 2009