Fussy eaters and healthy appetites (Words and phrases to describe the way we eat)

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by Kate Woodford

Do you eat to live, or live to eat? If you’ve never heard this phrase before, someone who eats to live, eats only because they have to in order to carry on living. For this type of person, food is just fuel. Someone who lives to eat, on the other hand, regards food as the best part of living and is always looking forward to their next meal. I think it’s true to say that most of us fall somewhere between these two extremes!

Starting with that second group of people, a few words exist for people who love their food and are very interested in trying new food. Informally, such a person may be called a foodie: Laura is a real foodie – she’ll be able to recommend a nice restaurant.

A more formal word for a food enthusiast is gourmet. ‘Gourmet’ suggests that someone likes very expensive, high-quality food: My father was a real gourmet. / She was also a gourmet cook.

If you want to emphasize that someone knows a lot about a particular food or drink, you might call them a connoisseur: This is a website for connoisseurs of chocolate.

A person who eats a lot may be said to have a good or healthy appetite: All three children have good appetites.

Someone who regularly eats more food than they need may be described as greedy: Don’t be greedy! / I’m going to be greedy and have another slice of cake! A more formal word for this is gluttonous: He was gluttonous and idle.

A person who is voracious or who has a voracious appetite eats a great deal: Like all boys of his age, he has a voracious appetite.

Staying with enthusiasm for food, chocolate is enjoyed by so many people that an informal word was invented for people who can’t stop eating it – chocoholic: My sister’s always eating chocolate – she’s a total chocoholic.

Related, someone who likes eating sweet food, especially sweets and chocolate, may be said to have a sweet tooth: I have a terrible sweet tooth. / I don’t have much of a sweet tooth – I prefer crisps and savoury snacks.

Moving on to people who are not so keen on food, someone who eats a very limited range of food, only accepting food if it is cooked a particular way, may be described as fussy. This adjective is usually used of children, often coming before the word ‘eater’: Both of my children were fussy eaters.

An informal synonym for fussy is picky: She’s still quite picky about what she’ll eat. The opposite of a fussy or picky eater is someone who will eat anything: You don’t have to worry about William – he’ll eat anything.

Whatever you eat this week, I hope you enjoy it!

31 thoughts on “Fussy eaters and healthy appetites (Words and phrases to describe the way we eat)

  1. Simonetta

    I really enjoyed reading this post as usual full of interesting words and idioms . What astonishes and at the same time frightens me is the incredibly vast amount of words English has to express different shades of meaning related to a topic. I have recently discovered the variety of words referred to wet places, taken from the Lord of the ring. It is undoubtedly true that landscape, territory and culture shapes the language.thank you for your efforts to broaden our vocabulary.
    Saluti dall’ Italia

    1. Mateusz Laskowski

      My thoughts exactly, they have a word for everything and new words seem to come up so fast and naturally and catch on. Also, I like to say English is the language of synonyms or synonymous expressions, and I compare it to my mother tongue, Polish. There are maybe 3-5 ways to say “I’m into sth” or “it’s important”, or “I think”, whereas here…

  2. Thank you, Kate.
    I feel ‘eat to liver or live to eat’ can be used in many situations in the logic of my language.
    Some people like to travel, thinking they live to travel, and in the end, they turn out traveling to live.
    Do you live to work or work to live? If you live to work, you find fulfillment in your work as other people think you are a glutton for punishment. If you work to live, work will only make you sad.
    Do the sentences make sense?
    Thank you.

    1. IworshiptheLord

      Well, I am not Kate Woodford, sorry, but I can’t really answer you… In French, we don’t use these sentences. But maybe we can use it in English ?
      I admit I didn’t thought about it… 😛

      In any case, thank you very much, Kate ! That was VERY interesting !… I knew the sentence “eat to live or live to eat” in French. Me, I don’t live to eat…
      I have a voracious appetite, because I am in a full growing… (I am 14 and half. :D)
      But I confess I can sometimes be a little greedy… However, in most cases, I am greedy with… salty food, like crisps. ><
      And I am very picky, but it's because I am a teen ! -Is there another teens ?

  3. Maryem Salama

    Foodie, it is my word for today as it is a completely new for me. What is more, it is a stem from one of the first words I have learned since my first encounter with English. Thank you, dear Kate

  4. Reblogged this on Glyn online and commented:
    Here is another great vocabulay post from the Cambridges dictionary Blog, this time on the topic of appetites and eating habits. A recommend read for vocabulary lovers 🙂

  5. Tiểu Dương

    Thank you for your information! Could I ask you what is the word you use to describe people who only love eating meat? It has 10 letters.

  6. Rauf

    I have been reading your blogs, and found them interestingly helpful to improve lexical resource. However, it is important to note that you make use of em dash quite often which creates confusion for a learner.
    What should an em dash be replaced with (comma or semicolon) in formal writing, to maintain clarity?

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