Word of the Day


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Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


a meal eaten outside, especially in the countryside

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

The noun picnic was borrowed from French ‘pique-nique’ and possibly also from German. It started to be used in the mid 18th century.


July is National Picnic Month, it seems, although the weather here so far has not been conducive to picnics, unless you favour the type where you sit in your car staring at the rain lashing the windscreen. The fact that the reality of a picnic rarely corresponds to the dreamy ideal does not seem to deter millions of us from taking our chances with the weather, sand, biting insects and other inconveniences, and determinedly eating alfresco. Picnic occurs in a number of compounds, including picnic area, picnic basket and picnic hamper, as well as often being used before another noun such as ‘lunch’, ‘table’, ‘blanket’, or ‘spot’. Someone who goes on a picnic is a picnicker, or an optimist. The carefree atmosphere of a good picnic is evoked, but in reverse, by the phrase no picnic, which is used to describe experiences that are not easy or enjoyable.


If ants are such busy workers, how come they find time to go to all the picnics?
(Marie Dressler)

Tea to the English is really a picnic indoors.
(Alice Walker)

Related words

al fresco, barbecue, barbie, braai, cookout

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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