Bon Appétit — Meaning, Pronunciation and More!

When you’re visiting France, you want to feel and sound like a local – or at least more “local” than the average tourist — so, you try to learn some common French phrases, expressions and greetings.

You’ve heard the French greeting Bon appétit, but maybe you’re not 100% sure what it means.

How do you pronounce it correctly?
Is it polite to say it, or actually disrespectful?
How can you respond when someone says it to you?

Let’s dive in!

Learning goals: This is what you’ll be able to do after watching this lesson

  • Beginner: Learn some customs around French meals
  • Intermediate: Learn new French vocabulary
  • Advanced: Master the examples and extra-mile tips

Bonjour c’est Géraldine.
Bienvenue sur Comme une Française. C’est parti !

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1. “Bon appétit” meaning and pronunciation

Bon appétit ! means “Have a good appetite” / “Enjoy your meal.”
It’s pronounced like [Bohn app aytee]. (The final “t” is silent.)

It comes from the masculine noun “l’appétit(= “appetite, healthy desire for food”).

That’s why we write “Bon(= masculine for “good”) and NOT “Bonne(= feminine for “good”) appétit for “good appetite”.

However, Bon ends with a consonant letter and is followed by a vowel (a), so we make la liaison – the “n” is no longer silent, and Bon instead sounds like Bonne.
Bon appétit !

2. Is it really polite?

You might find, here and there, contrarian urban legends saying that “Bon appétit” is actually impolite — that it hints at bodily functions that come with eating, and would be considered rude or in bad taste…

Well, it’s false! Please, keep saying Bon appétit ! at the beginning of a meal – it’s the signal that the meal can start, that you’re all ready to eat.

You can also say it to people who are already eating.
For instance, if you’re hiking in the French mountains and you come across a couple of other hikers sitting down for their picnic, you can tell them Bon appétit ! as a greeting, while you’re walking by.

If someone tells you Bon appétit ! you can answer Merci (= thank you) if they’re not eating as well (if they’re a waiter, for instance). If they are eating at the same time, you only need to wish them the same: Bon appétit !

3. Table customs are strong

Table customs in France are important. There are many common mistakes that foreigners make when it comes to French food, including mistakes with bread!

French table customs are more of a set of habits than a written rulebook. But it stems from the fact that eating in France means both enjoying good, local products and socializing with the people you share your meal with!

This was specially acknowledged when UNESCO put French gastronomic meals on the Intangible Cultural Heritage list.

French people don’t eat alone.
So embrace this and wish “Bon appétit !” to your dinner partners.

What now?

If you want to learn more about table customs, check out the playlist of French food culture videos that I put together for you on YouTube.

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→ If you enjoyed this lesson (and/or learned something new) – why not share this lesson with a francophile friend? You can talk about it afterwards! You’ll learn much more if you have social support from your friends 🙂

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Allez, salut 🙂

Join the conversation!

  • Merci Géraldine j’ai utilisé bon appétit tous le temps. En Angleterre de temps en temp personne utilisé ‘enjoy’ = profiter.
    Bonne journée
    Anne

  • I’ve just come back from a holiday in Morocco where
    the French language is all around, along with their
    native language of Berber Arabic. In the hotel the
    restaurant staff frequently wished us “bon appétit”
    as the hotel’s guests sat down to eat. I’ve always
    found this to be a very charming and polite French
    custom, and I think that the equivalent in English
    would be to say “enjoy your meal”.
    Merci Géraldine, et ~ “très bonne leçon” 😀

  • En espagnol, on dit “buen provecho” ou aussi “que aproveche”, indifféremment, même si l’on ne connaît pas la personne ou les personnes qui sont à table. Ce sont des expressions polies pour ces circonstances-là.

  • Je suis d’accord, Geraldine, la pronunciation incorrecte peut etre agacant (meme quand de ma femme(!)). Toujours sur le sujet de la nourriture, une fois vous avez mentionne (excusez l’absence d’accents) une phrase a decrire un simple repas a partager avec un visiteur a la maison, c’est a dire pas un repas special. Sil vous plait, comment peut-on exprimer cela? Merci beaucoup.

  • Can you please clarify the pronunciation of the ‘o’ in « bon appétit » ? In the text you say it is pronounced like “bohn” but below you say it should be pronounced like « bonne » before a vowel which to an English ear sounds like “bun.” Which is it with liaison, “bone” or “bun”? Merci Géraldine !

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