“Takeaway”

Sign for a San Francisco takeout joint

Takeout and takeaway (hyphenated versions are also commonly found) refer to food purchased in a restaurant or other shop and consumed at home. Both terms can be adjectives or nouns and can refer to the meal itself or the establishment that prepares it. OED describes take-out as “orig. U.S.” and finds it first in a line from James M. Cain’s 1940 Mildred Pierce: “Pies she hoped to sell to the ‘take-out’ trade.” Again according to the OED, take-out arrived in the U.K. no later than 1970, when The Times reported, “One of New York’s finest restaurants will provide gourmet ‘take-out’ lunches for the hard-pressed executive.”

By contrast, all of the OED’s citations for takeaway are from the U.K. or British Empire outposts, commencing with a 1964 quote from Punch: “Posh Nosh‥was serving take-away venisonburgers.”

Takeaway (in the food, rather than the golf-swing, football-interception-or-fumble, or business-jargon, sense) felt strange in the U.S. as recently as 1977, when the New York Times noted about Terence Conran’s new New York furniture store, “delivery is discouraged, and everything stocked carries a tag that says, ‘takeaway price.'” But it has made itself comfortable over here in recent years–for example, in this headline two days ago from the blog Culturemap Austin (Texas): “Fresa’s Chicken al Carbon brings a giant chicken mascot and fresh take-away food to Austin at a decent price.”

Or this from a New York Times review last year of a Brazilian restaurant in Queens: “For takeaway, banana and cassava cakes ($2.75 each) travel well.”

Thus, for my money, takeaway is a clear-cut NOOB. However, I have a nagging sense that I encountered it long ago (I’m talking a half-century) in the Washington, D.C., area, and at the time did a mental double-take to find it instead of the more familiar takeout.

Normally, when I want to look up a word in the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE), I’m frustrated, because I only possess Vol. V., which covers Sl-Z. I got excited because both takeout and takeaway fall within its purview. However, DARE doesn’t have an entry for either one. Help?

Update, 4/21: The comment from Laura Payne, below, made me realize I was mistaken about remembering takeaway being used in Washington. The term I actually encountered was carry-out.

16 responses to ““Takeaway”

  1. How about something on “supremo” as in FI supremo Bernie. Goes with journo only not high ranking.
    Louis De La Foret (French name, American living in England)

  2. What about “carry out”? I actually posted about three versions of “food being picked up from a restaurant for consumption at a different location” back in July of 2009. I received some interesting comments from readers too.

    • Your comment makes me realize I was wrong about my Washington, D.C. memory. I was struck by the use there of “carry out,” not “takeaway.”

  3. My work crew and I used to regularly eat at a Mexican restaurant in California where the outdoor sign and menus were imprinted with the phrase “food to went.” or maybe it was “food-to-went.” We could never get a straight response when we suggested it be changed to “food to go,” but it was not intended as a joke either.

  4. I’ve noticed a lot more places in London ask “Do you want that to eat in or to go?” Takeaway still used most but “to go” seems to gaining ground. Though, of course, I try not to frequent these types of places too often🙂

  5. And “to go” is a huge Americanism. My sense is that here the alternatives usually given are “eat here or to go”–sometimes “to go or to stay,”

  6. I often find myself saying ‘to go’ when I order my morning coffee, and I hate myself for it. I have ex-partners from Northern Ireland, and Scotland and both would use Take out, never take away.

  7. I haven’t lived in DC for 20 years or so, but “takeaway” was the common term for what people here in Boston call “carryout.”

  8. Takeaway is English rather than British as Scots would always say carry-out (or ‘oot’) or take-out.

    To go is now common at least in London but is an Americanised affectation you’d most expect to hear in a coffee shop and which would still IMO sound out of place relating to proper food.

  9. I am in America, and have accidentally adopted “takeaway” from friends. I actually think it sounds better, no so hurried.

  10. “Takeout and takeaway … refer to food purchased in a restaurant or other shop and consumed at home.”
    This is incorrect. There is no requirement that the food be consumed “at home”.
    By far the majority of takeaway of takeout food that I’ve consumed has been eaten in my office at breakfast or lunch time and, on rare occasions, in a park on a pleasant day. I rarely take it home.
    I would guess that lunch in the office is one of the the most common occasions for the consumption of take-away or out.
    At home, if I weren’t cooking and didn’t feel like eating in a restaurant I’d order food to be delivered.

  11. I think most Brits would use the word takeaway to mean something different from a restaurant.

    So, one might ask, “shall we get some takeaway or go to a restaurant?”. I think any Brit would understand that in this sentence takeaway means a suggestion to buy some prepared food (delivered by them or collected from their premises) from an establishment whose primary (or entire) purpose is to sell said food for consumption off the premises, whereas restaurant means a suggestion to go and have a sit down meal at an establishment selling prepared food wholly or primarily intended for consumption on the premises.

    There are, however, some restaurants that will sell takeaway to those who prefer not to eat at the restaurant table or who were too late to book a table.

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