canteen / can ting ?

September 18, 2008, 12:22 AM posted in General Discussion

Hi folks,

Apparently the Chinese 餐厅 "can ting" (dining hall, restaurant) is from the English "canteen" (which is from Italian, "cantina"), but I'm really only guessing here. Does anyone know for sure whether "can ting" comes from "canteen", and if so, when it began to be used in Chinese? (I think the characters above are correct, but I'm not sure.)

Profile picture
September 18, 2008, 12:35 AM

Not sure. We were talking about this in my class a few weeks ago. At least it certainly makes it a bit easier to remember

Profile picture
September 18, 2008, 12:40 AM


餐厅 cān tīng is most definately not a loan word from any other language.

餐厅 cān tīng is made up of two Chinese characters:

餐 cān - Food, Meal

厅 tīng - Hall

Come together to mean "Dining Hall / Restaurant".  The word 餐厅 is a word completely unique to the Chinese language.  It is a bit of a funny coincidence that the pronunciation is so close to a similar word from another language.  Maybe we should look into if "Cantina" was derived from cān tīng...where's JP when you need him?

Profile picture
September 18, 2008, 01:40 AM

i am lucy ,a chinese girl.i want to meet Foreigners , we can help each other.i have blog at``````under the name lucy520. you guys can add me

Profile picture
September 18, 2008, 01:50 AM


Yes, this is why my original thought was that "canteen" was derived from the Chinese. But one of my Chinese colleagues thinks that 'can ting' is a relatively recent addition to the language, and she's the one who suggested it may be derived from the English. Perhaps it is just a coincidence as you say . . . but I'm still wondering.

Profile picture
September 18, 2008, 03:19 AM

It looks like canteen (c. 1710) is derived from the French word cantine, which was derived from the Italian word cantina.  See canteen etimology here.  It looks like cantina was derived from the Latin word canto (c. 1590) ...from Latin word chant (c. 1386) ...from Old French word chanter (c. 1250 - 1300).

Looking at 餐厅 cāntīng, more specifically the traditional form 餐廳, the 餐 cān dates back to at least the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907).  Click the characters below for more info:


So, it looks like the Chinese word came first and that it has nothing to do with any of the Latin, French, Italian, or English words.

Wow, I must be bored tonight!!!


Looks like the character etymology links are not working.  Go here and click on the details icon to get the info.

Profile picture
September 18, 2008, 04:27 AM

Hi ericmacknight,

You’ve raised an interesting question. Actually, it’s difficult to completely deny the assumption that 餐厅 (can1 ting1) is originated in “canteen”. There is still a very slim possibility that the Chinese word was invented by a guy who was inspired by the sound of “canteen”, and however, I’m afraid that I also think it’s only a coincidence.

There are a lot of words that end with “” in Chinese, such as 饭厅,大厅,客厅,官厅,舞厅,歌厅 and so on, therefore, I guess that 餐厅 is also just one of those “” series words. Having said that, I personally prefer the “canteen” hypothesis. In Japan, some people jokingly say the Japanese word “名前” (na-ma-e) is originated in “name”!

Hi calkins,

That’s a nice etymology of “canteen”. European etymology seems to be very different from Chinese one. The former is based on “sounds”, and the latter is mainly based on “shapes” of characters. For the record, the character has a longer history than you think. You can see it in 说文解字 edited around 100 AD. is a relatively new character.

Profile picture
September 18, 2008, 07:23 AM

Fascinating! I don't what's more intriguing: the idea, which now seems unlikely, that "canteen" and "can ting" are related, or the idea that two words that mean the same thing in two such different languages could sound and look (in pin yin, at least) so similar.

Thanks, everybody!