Definitions

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

  • n. A restaurant or tavern, usually below street level, that serves beer.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A bar or restaurant in a basement, especially one that serves beer.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. Orig., in Germany, the cellar or basement of the city hall, usually rented for use as a restaurant where beer is sold; hence, a beer saloon of the German type below the street level, where, usually, drinks are served only at tables and simple food may also be had; -- sometimes loosely used, in English, of what are essentially basement restaurants where liquors are served.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. The cellar of a town hall; a public wine-cellar; hence, a room, or rooms, below the level of the street, in which wine and beer are sold.

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

  • n. a tavern below street level featuring beer; originally a German restaurant in the basement of city hall

Etymologies

German Ratskeller, Rathskeller, restaurant in the city hall basement : German Rat, council, counsel (from Middle High German rāt, from Old High German) + German Keller, cellar (from Middle High German, from Old High German kellāri, from Latin cellārium; see cellar).
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
German Rat ("council") + Keller ("cellar") (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • The "rathskeller" was Larry Blake's trademark, a subterranean beer hall where some of the Bay Area's best blues, jazz and R&B bands performed over the decades.

    SFGate: Top News Stories

  • The Siren, Tigre, is the mistress of the microphone, the torch singer of this underworld cabaret, a rathskeller existing on the perimeter of the stage where the deceased congregate to toast the good fortune of their mortality as we all watch the show together.

    Buzzine » Cirque Berzerk!

  • And I like the people I've met in the blogosphere, as maligned as that make-believe world is in print and the corner rathskeller.

    One year later...

  • Plus, don't I remind you of a long-ago rathskeller near your third-tier liberal arts college...

    Nick Mamatas' Journal

  • When Barack Obama was in the rathskeller down at Harvard, McCain was in the Senate working hard for the issues that have helped build this military to one of the strongest powers in history.

    CNN Transcript Jun 30, 2008

  • But there is other music -- sometimes neither inspiring nor beautiful when heard in a German rathskeller -- the music of rag time.

    Bohemian San Francisco Its restaurants and their most famous recipes—The elegant art of dining.

  • German university songs, banging their glasses on the table when they came to the chorus until we all caught the spirit of it and banged our glasses like rathskeller veterans.

    Dawn O'Hara, the Girl Who Laughed

  • Plaza, boulevard, vaudeville, menu and rathskeller have entered into the common speech of the land, and are pronounced as American words.

    Chapter 9. The Common Speech. 10. Vulgar Pronunciation

  • Vaudeville is vawd-vill; boulevard has three syllables and a hard d at the end; plaza has a flat a; the first syllable of menu rhymes with bee; the first of rathskeller with cats; fiancée is fy-ance-y; née rhymes with see; décolleté is de-coll-ty; hofbräu is huffbrow; the German w has lost its v-sound and becomes an American w.

    Chapter 9. The Common Speech. 10. Vulgar Pronunciation

  • He employed from seven to nine helpers, and his place occupied about 20 by 60 feet floor space, with a rathskeller in the basement; he paid $100 per month rental.

    The Negro at Work in New York City A Study in Economic Progress

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Comments

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  • Any relation to the band Rathkeltair? *ponders*

    August 14, 2008

  • This was Rathskeller in German until the 1901 spelling reform, which removed the silent H in words such as Rath and Thal. It happens that English borrowed the word just before that.

    August 14, 2008

  • More properly ratskeller.

    August 14, 2008