Definition of canteen in US English:



  • 1A restaurant provided by an organization such as a military camp, college, factory, or company for its soldiers, students, staff, etc.

    • ‘Astley Bridge police station on Crompton Way is in a relatively isolated position, away from shops and food retailers and so staff rely on the canteen to provide them with hot meals and sandwiches.’
    • ‘Working spaces are supported by gyms and games rooms and a host of canteens, restaurants and rest areas.’
    • ‘Many sixth-form colleges said that students had occupied canteens.’
    • ‘He will take lunch in a meeting, or chat to staff in the canteen.’
    • ‘Scotland's school canteens must become bistro-style restaurants, complete with salad bars and a menu of baguettes and grilled fish, food experts are to tell ministers.’
    • ‘Many businesses in York and the surrounding area will be receiving a request to display posters in their staff rooms and canteens to promote this event.’
    • ‘When I worked at the Savoy our morning coffee and buttered croissants always came from either the restaurant or room service rather than the staff canteen.’
    • ‘On block release, I queued for dinner at the college canteen behind Alison and Sam.’
    • ‘Even the school canteen - Range Restaurant - is looking at plans to make ready meals available for staff to take home and reheat for themselves and their families.’
    • ‘It is also about the activities of college students in the canteen, sports fields and between classes.’
    • ‘Instead of people coming up and congratulating me, for saving their summer, I'm getting dirty looks at the bus stop and nobody wants to sit next to me in the staff canteen.’
    • ‘The hall at the Civic Centre is not available during the day because it is used for a staff canteen.’
    • ‘Staff rooms and canteens were filled with fans allowed to delay their work until the final whistle.’
    • ‘You could read the staff magazine ‘Ariel’ (otherwise known as Pravda) in the staff canteen without being laughed at.’
    • ‘They want decent meals and I am insisting that the food in the staff canteen should be the same as in the racecourse self-service restaurant.’
    • ‘The fire was so severe that staff in the canteen of the police station around the corner in Northway could smell smoke.’
    • ‘The show was originally going to be held in the small training restaurant, but demand was so high the venue was changed to the student canteen.’
    • ‘The boss eats breakfast in the staff canteen every morning and is planning to move his office closer to the rank and file to be more ‘visible and accessible’.’
    • ‘Companies will have to close areas such as staff canteens to stop people in different departments infecting each other.’
    • ‘Anybody who has seen a fight sequence from a Hindi film which takes place in a college canteen or a restaurant will know the answer.’
    restaurant, cafeteria, refectory, mess hall
    View synonyms
  • 2A small water bottle, as used by soldiers or campers.

    • ‘Individual hunters recorded kills of one hundred, then two hundred, from a single stand, pausing only to cool their overheated rifle barrels with canteens of water.’
    • ‘Cloud picked himself up and removed a canteen from a nearby soldier's belt.’
    • ‘Soon the guard took his water canteen out of his belt, took a swig, and dropped to the floor, never to wake again.’
    • ‘Carelessly she poured some water from a canteen into the two cups, slopping little drops all about.’
    • ‘Hotsuma shook his head and reached into his pouch, pulling out 4 canteens of water.’
    • ‘In the belief that wormwood could protect against malaria and dysentery, the French government had issued rations of absinthe to the troops fighting in Algeria, to be mixed with the water in their canteens.’
    • ‘I also threw in two canteens of water and a flashlight (even though we weren't staying out after dark), the map from my office as well as my lensatic compass.’
    • ‘Falnec crumbled a tab of painkiller into his canteen and held the rim of the metal flask to the youth's lips.’
    • ‘You don't just tell your soldiers to fill their canteens with water; you check them before a patrol to make sure they did.’
    • ‘She was wearing brown hiking boots, a pink backpack, a canteen and a hookshot attached to her belt.’
    • ‘Calomar grumbled as he dumped some water from his canteen into an old pot and put it on top of the stove.’
    • ‘CamelBak, whose soft-sided canteens are a hybrid water bottle and backpack, developed a new filtering system to protect U.S. troops in Kuwait from water-borne bacteria.’
    • ‘He dropped the container and the canteen and sprawled onto the ground.’
    • ‘He moves among the students in the encampment checking canteens, to see who has been drinking water.’
    • ‘He gave her water from his canteen, cupped in his hand.’
    • ‘Ryne looked to his companion, ‘We did, but that didn't stop them from bring flasks and canteens filled with it.’
    • ‘‘You should not feel comfortable,’ Leigha replied, drinking for her animal skin canteen.’
    • ‘Our weightlifting belts were old military GI belts that soldiers used to carry canteens.’
    • ‘The utility belt attached below the vest includes two canteens of water and a nine-millimeter pistol.’
    • ‘Minutes later Kyrgyz soldiers are thrusting cans of sardines and canteens of water into their hands.’
    View synonyms


Mid 18th century (originally denoting a shop selling provisions or alcohol in a barracks or garrison town): from French cantine, from Italian cantina ‘cellar’. A French use of cantine denoting a small compartmented case for carrying bottles of wine may have given rise to canteen (sense 3).