1. a list of the food that is available in a restaurant, café etc
2. a list of choices on a computer screen that tells you what you can do in a particular program
Origin and usage
Menu is a borrowing from French. It originally meant ‘small or unimportant’, from the Latin ‘minutus’. The ‘list of food’ meaning came later, and was first used in English in the early 19th century.
When menu started to be used in English it was marked out as a borrowed term by the use of italics or quotation marks, but over time it became fully assimilated as an English word. Extended uses of the word to apply to things other than food choices started to appear in the late 19th century. The computing use is first recorded as early as 1967, when it referred to a list of available commands. This use has produced several compounds, including menu bar, drop-down menu and pull-down menu. The food meaning also has its compounds, including kids’ or children’s menu and tasting menu. A hamburger menu, confusingly, has nothing to do with food; rather it refers to a menu button on a screen that somewhat resembles a hamburger since it consists of three thick parallel lines.
“Others have said it before me. If you don’t have a seat at the table, you’re probably on the menu.”
“I am not interested in picking up crumbs of compassion thrown from the table of someone who considers himself my master. I want the full menu of rights.”
à la carte, all-you-can-eat, table d’hôte