The Origin of the Word ‘Vittles’ for Food

When you think of the word vittles, what comes to mind? Is it the word victuals? That may be the first thing that springs to mind, as many people see vittles and victuals as interchangeable terms, particularly in regards to food. But is there any truth to this? What exactly does the word vittles mean when it comes to food? 

The word vittles have been used as a slang term meaning food since the mid-1800s, and its origin remains uncertain. So, what exactly are vittles and where did the term come from? What was the original meaning of this particular word and how has it evolved?

What are Vittles?

We talk about food all day long, but where did certain phrases come from and what do they mean? For example, when we say someone is gorging on a meal we often say that they are vitting it. But where did vittles come from and what does it mean? The first thing to know about vittles is that it was originally a term used during times of war to describe soldiers’ meals. 

However, today vittles have shifted and can be used in many different contexts. At its core, though it means food; specifically, any solid foods or drinks that are taken into our body through consumption. So, if you need to get some food because you are hungry then you could ask a friend for some vittles or simply call out to grab something from a drive-thru which seems fitting since most fast food places offer side dishes called vittles.

Another Meaning for Vittles

Vittles aren’t just a word used to describe rations or army food; it can also be used as a verb. You can say that you get your vittles from KFC, Taco Bell, and Red Lobster every day. Not only does vittle share a spelling with its sister word victuals, but it means essentially the same thing: that which feeds us or provides sustenance. If victuals mean provisions as in food supplies and stores then certainly vittles would apply too.

When it comes to vittles and victuals, many etymologists feel that victuals came first. It dates back to Middle English, where it was spelled as vitaille and was a verb in French and Latin referring to provisions in general.

Vittles Etymology

Vittles, a slang term for food, comes from an archaic Middle English word meaning victuals or supplies. The etymology of victuals itself is derived from a medieval Latin word for provisions that derives in turn from another Latin word for nourishment: vivere. The origin of vittles and all its different spellings (vittals, vitels, et al.) lies in nourishment. 

Such sustenance was critical to people who had to travel long distances between cities; on journeys that could take days or weeks, they would carry with them these basics because they were so important to survival. So much so that they called them their vit-tays – rhymes with days. —i.e., their staple foods, things like flour and dried fruits.

Exploring the Origins of Vittles

The dictionary defines vittles as food, provisions, groceries. It comes from either a phonetic spelling of Victuals or Victuallers. These words ultimately come from Latin and French roots that mean nourishment or food.

Vittles comes from victuals or Victuallers. Both words come from Latin roots: Victus nourishment and victor conqueror. Victualler refers to one who supplies food or provisions; an innkeeper. Victuals can be any type of food or drink, but in 19th century America, it was primarily used as a slang term for rations issued to sailors, army soldiers and prisoners.

In 19th century America, vittles were a term used to describe meals in general and rations issued to sailors, army soldiers and prisoners. Nowadays, victuals refer to provisions or stores of food or other necessities. The word can also be used as a verb. For example, He victualled himself with nuts and berries while he walked through the forest. Victual means to supply food or drink.

Several phrases are derived from victuals and vittles. To live off of something means to live by it; in terms of food, that means eating only what one has on hand—making do with whatever you have available rather than buying more.

Vittles’ for food

The word originates from old English, and it comes from a long list of other words that have to do with household management, such as vittle, vittle-book, vittle-monger and vittles-monger.  Vittle itself has its roots in Vitellius, which is Latin for eel. This was a term given to those who oversaw food during Medieval times when eels were a delicacy, especially since they often showed up in pies at banquets held by royalty.

Vittles’ for food A basic definition of vittle can be found in several old English texts. Nowadays, it is most commonly used as slang to mean rations or provisions; however, many dictionaries and publications still consider it to be a rare word that was once used to describe eel pie.

Therefore, Vitellius can be said to be a catalyst for vittle, which then became synonymous with victuals. Victuals come from Latin and refer to provisions or food needed by humans.

Why It Is Used Today

The word vittles have been used in English to mean food. To begin with, victual was a general term for anything that could be consumed or used to supply nourishment. From there, victual developed into more specific meanings it came to describe supplies and provisions needed onboard a ship such as tools and other cargo, as well as provisions kept on hand at an inn.

Today, vittles can still be used to refer to food. More specifically, it is used to describe anything that makes a meal complete such as staples such as bread, garnishes like salt and pepper, condiments such as ketchup and mustard or extras like sugar and cream. For example, you might talk about making sure you have your vittles ready when you go camping. Alternatively, you could ask a restaurant if they have their vittles available for purchase.  Vittles is also used as an adjective meaning essential; in other words, something that makes up a whole thing—in this case, food. While vittles were once commonly seen on menus throughout America during the late 1800s and early 1900s, their use has declined today.

In addition to appearing on restaurant menus, another place you might encounter vittles is at fairgrounds, where prizes may be called out as vittles prizes because of their value remember that vittles originally meant necessary provisions.

How Vittles Differs from Other Words Used to Describe Food

Although vittles share a connection with words like victuals, edibles, and grub all of which have been used to describe food, it differs from these similar terms in that it refers to food as a means to sustain life. Although you may call your morning meal breakfast no matter what time you eat it, many people refrain from using words like victuals or grub before noon.

 Vittles, on the other hand, has no such restrictions. You can use it in a sentence about any food, at any time of day. For example, It’s 8 PM. I think I’ll have some vittles before bed.

In terms of etymology the origin and development of words, vittles hold a unique position among other words used to describe food. In Old French, vitaille referred to provisions or stored food; in Latin, it was victuals. Both of these earlier versions mean pretty much what they do today: an assortment of edibles that can be eaten at any time even while wandering in a wilderness.

Some Fun Facts About Vittles

Other words can be used in place of vittles. These include chow, grub, victuals, and provisions. Vittles come from a French word that means goods or things. So literally vittles mean food goods or food things. 

The origins of some of these words date back when provisions referred to military equipment and victuals were meant to be plural for one single item such as a loaf of bread. The good news about all these synonyms for vittles is that you could use them all interchangeably with no confusion or offence being taken on either side. 

One interesting thing is that words like victuals, grub, and chow were derived before vittles; however, vittles is still included among these other terms because it has always been associated with foods ever since their origin. People know to refer to certain foods when they say vittles or chow just like people know what specific types of dogs a terrier refers to regardless if those terriers have different looks or sizes. 

Another way you can use vittles in place of food is as a verb. A synonym for vittle about eating is dining.


There are many theories as to where vittles come from, but some say it originated during World War II when soldiers used hardtack crackers to describe their food rations. These days, most people use vittles as a synonym for food, including any non-perishable sustenance intended to be eaten or drunk by human beings. 

Most say they would rather have good vittles than eat candy, which may explain why so many folks around the globe enjoy eating spicy goulash over chocolate cake. In conclusion, Vittles can be anything edible and usually refers to solid food as opposed to liquids such as soup or tea.

Categories: General

Nicolas Desjardins

Hello everyone, I am the main writer for SIND Canada. I’ve been writing articles for more than 10 years and I like sharing my knowledge. I’m currently writing for many websites and newspaper. All my ideas come from my very active lifestyle. I always keep myself very informed to give you the best information. In all my years as computer scientist made me become an incredible researcher. I believe that any information should be free, we want to know more every day because we learn everyday. You can contact me on our forum or by email at: [email protected].