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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Allez, salut 🙂

Join the conversation!

  • Salut Geraldine! Thanks you for the interesting lesson on the pronunciation and use of “Bon Appetit.” I was wondering about “la liaison.” Does that apply for all cases when an “n” precedes a noun that begins with a vowel? For example. what do you do with “un attentat” and, for that matter, “un atelier”? Does the pronunciation sound like “une” as with bon(ne) appetit, or do you keep the masculine pronunciation of “un” (with nasal), but carry the “n” over.

    Thanks in advance for your help!

    • Hi Janet !

      Great questions, very sharp 🙂

      We did a lesson on “la liaison,” find it here:

      Yes, it does apply to all cases where “un” precedes a noun that begins with a vowel… same thing for adjectives too!

      “Un attentat,” “un atelier,” “un éléphant,” “un oiseau,” “un énorme éléphant”, “un agréable moment”… In all of these cases, there’s a liaison between “un” and the word that comes after it.

      Pronunciation: it’s the masculine version of “un” (nasal) + a “n” that basically gets added to the next word.

      The extra mile:
      – With la liaison, “s” turns into “z” : “Les” / “Des” + vowel sound like “Ley” / “Dey” + z + vowel. “Des enfants” sound like [Dey zenfan]

      The extra extra mile:
      There’s a lot to say about la liaison, you can find the gist of it in the lesson above. But we could say a lot more – it comes from the need of “making words sound better,” so of course it changes on a case-by-case basis. Some liaisons are mandatory, others are a sign of education / formality, and some are never done.

      The extra, extra, extra mile, juste because it’s late and I’m thinking about it:

      Even as a French person, it’s easy to make mistakes, especially when you’re not paying attention.
      For instance: “Les liaisons sont interdites” (= the liaisons are forbidden) sound like “Les liaisons sont tinterdites.”
      But “Ce sont des liaisons interdites” (= these are forbidden liaisons) sound like “Ce son dey liaisons zinterdites.”
      [To be honest, the liaison between “liaisons” and “interdites” isn’t mandatory, it’s only a sign of formality]
      A French person speaking quickly could mix these up and say “Ce sont des liaisons tinterdites” – and that would sound very weird.

      There’s a funny sketch about it!
      Les Liaison Dangereuses –

      Have a great day,

      – Arthur, writer for Comme une Française

  • Thank you, very much for this quick lesson…. I think saying, Bono Appétit is very charming, and to me, has an air of loving respect for the person that is about to Enjoy a Wonderful meal… Bravo! For the Love of Goodness in life, it can be all about “Learning ” to “Think “, Positive, and Eating is sooo Good and Positive, any way you do it…. I know, because, I’ve had to miss a few meals in my life. ♡ to Everybody.

  • Sorry, but your lesson here is wrong. « Bon appetit » is regarded as highly vulgar in polite French society.

    • Hi Michael!

      Are you French?

      Anyway, that’s an interesting input.

      Short answer: Don’t believe everything you read in the newspapers, “Bon appétit” is definitely polite in polite French society.

      Longer answer: “Bon appétit” will be polite everywhere you’ll be invited to in French society.

      Longer, longer answer: This article:
      There’s an urban legend saying “no actually blah blah blah, also it means poop.” That’s not historically supported, and the original spreading of that idea is probably somebody trying to be too contrarian for their own good… But yes, it seems that a few old families shun saying “Bon appétit.” They’re not representative of “polite society,” and even less representative of the kind of French people that our readers that are interested in modern French, will ever meet in France.

      But of course there isn’t a topic that all French people agree on, so there are exceptions. But don’t worry, all in all saying “Bon appétit” will be a good idea 🙂

      Have a great day,

      – Arthur, writer for Comme une Française

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

  • 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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