A first-course dish; appetizer.

Google Ngram showing frequency of use of "our starter" (blue line) and "our appetizer" (red line) in American English between 1990 and 2008.

Several salads on the menu proved to be better appetite arousers than some of our starter choices. (New York Times, July 14, 1991. Note interesting use of the word arouser.)/While there’s a slew of appetizers and salads to try as starters, the small plates make for a nice way to try and share more dishes. (TheDay.com [New London, CT], April 21, 2011)

6 thoughts on ““Starter”

  1. Again, as a New York City area native who has been in restaurants since infancy, I have heard starter used interchangably with appetizer my entire life. Now that I think about it, I tend to use the phrase “I’ll have the _____ to start” or “….for starters”. I rarely say appetizers, and it is not a deliberate pretension to cool Brit-ness, as my frequent use of other NOOBs tends be…

  2. Like so many of these preposterous posts, appetizer is an Americanism of starter – starter being the phrase used originally. Personally I have no problem with anyone deciding to use an alternate phrase for something if they so wish, but to claim the original is incorrect somehow is a tad cheeky. It is intersting to note that the Americanism in question here is not only using a different word, but spelling it differently as well – the English version being appetiser.

  3. @Daniel:

    Wow: your pomposity is exceeded only by your ignorance.

    “Appetizer” (thus spelled) appears in Sir Walter Scott’s “The Abbott” (1820) and Lord Byron’s “Don Juan — notes to Canto V” (1821). I suppose they must have been Americans?

    I don’t know exactly when “starter” to mean “first course of a meal”, came into use, but in a few searches I was unable to find anything earlier than 1950. Perhaps someone with free access to the online OED could confirm.

    1. As requested: OED’s first cite for “starter” is 1966, with this quote from New Society in 1968: “The first course of a meal is sometimes called a ‘starter’, which is perhaps not so much non-U as jargon.”

  4. This is really interesting, I wasn’t aware that ‘starter’ wasn’t as frequently used in America. I don’t want to speak on behalf of all BrE speakers but to me an ‘appetiser’ has a closer semantic meaning to ‘hors d’œuvres’.

  5. I have noticed of late more use in AmE of the phrase ”For starters” when referring to the first line of arguments that a person wishes to make

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