Bon appétit (Pronunciaton: bɔ̃n apeti; Meaning: “Enjoy!”) has a different reputation depending on who you ask, but it’s pronunciation always stays the same. Discover everything there is to know about when and how to use this French phrase.
What does “bon appétit” mean?
No matter what your French level is, you’ve probably heard the phrase bon appétit. Bon appétit is notoriously hard to translate into English since we don’t have the same mealtime traditions.
But bon appétit’s meaning is closest to “enjoy your meal” or simply “enjoy!” With a cuisine as well-known as the French, knowing how to wish someone well before a meal is key.
Bon Appétit Pronunciation
If you’ve spent as much time on the internet as I have, you might remember when the pronunciation of bon appétit was going viral. Someone tweeted an image of a succulent steak, fluffy mashed potatoes, and cheesy broccoli. In their caption, they wrote: “My BIRTHDAY dinner to myself. Bone apple tea.”
They had likely heard someone use the French phrase before, but hadn’t ever seen its spelling. Since then, people have been posting images of their own meals with #boneappletea in the caption.
Some have even jokingly created their own variations like “bone app the teeth,” “bro apple jeans,” and “A B C D.”
So how do you pronounce the French phrase, bon appétit? Luckily, we got a native French speaker to do their best rendition of bon appétit. Now you’ll know how to say it next time you’re with French speakers.
P.S. Bon appétit is a great example of liaison, a French pronunciation rule, because when you pronounce it you’ll carry the “n” sound from “bon” into the word “appétit.”
Even French people misspell bon appétit as bonne appétit because the two phrases sound almost exactly alike. So watch out for that mistake.
When to Use Bon Appétit
Now that you’ve got your pronunciation down to a bon appétit, (excuse the pun) it’s time to talk a little bit about bon appétit etiquette. Bon appétit is appreciated before any meal and is expected in others.
The French consider it rude to begin eating before everyone gets their food. It can also be considered rude to eat before saying bon appétit.
With a younger crowd, you might be able to get away without saying it. But, if someone says it to you and you don’t say it back, they will likely take it badly.
My French boyfriend thought I was angry at him for something when he wished me bon appétit one night and I didn’t say it back. So when in doubt, say bon appétit before any meal. If you’re in a more casual situation, you can say “bon app.”
Though, you likely wouldn’t say it among family during more casual meals like breakfast or snack time. If you’re passing by somebody enjoying something to eat you can wish them bon appétit at any time of day. In situations like this, it works like a greeting.
If someone wishes you bon appétit and they’re not eating, you can simply respond with “merci.” If they are eating as well, responding back with “bon appétit aussi” or “à vous aussi.”
Can bon appétit be considered impolite?
In general, not saying bon appétit is what is considered impolite. But there is a small percentage of the upper class who consider saying bon appétit to be impolite.
According to Liberation, some “old French” families of the upper echelon consider saying bon appétit socially incorrect and for “péqeunots.” This is a pejorative way to say “country bumpkin.” It is similar to “hick” or “redneck.”
The rest of the French population widely view this as false. The French have used bon appétit for centuries by the French and will continue to be used and loved by the rest of the population. So unless you’re dining with some real French aristocrats, I would use bon appétit unless you want to be considered rude.
A Look into its Meaning
You already know that bon appétit translates best to “enjoy your meal,” but it literally means “good appetite.” French chef, Paul Bucose, popularized the phrase “bon appétit et large soif,” which means “Eat hearty and drink up.”
You won’t commonly hear this, but if you’re enjoying dinner with a group who enjoy a nice glass of wine or cocktail, you could try using this phase out.
And with that, I wish you bon appétit for your next meal—whenever it is!