You might not have realized this before, but identifying yourself as a gourmand in French is not the same as saying you’re a gourmet. Yes, we do use both of these in English, but often confound the original meaning of the two… so much so that in many English dictionaries, “gourmand” is listed as a synonym of “gourmet”.
Whatever your views on prescriptivism vs descriptivism, the difference in meaning between gourmet and gourmand is quite pronounced in French.
It’s true that both words convey a love of eating, but there’s more to the story. Not to mention that the word gourmand has more than one possible meaning. So let’s see the differences!
1. What’s gourmet?
Being a gourmet is associated with liking fine dining, appreciating special flavors, textures, and an attractive presentation of food on your plate – in short, the focus is on quality. (The word gourmet can also refer to a love of and a thorough knowledge about wines).
2. And what’s gourmand?
Gourmand, in contrast, is used to describe someone who finds pleasure in eating in general.
- It’s widely used to describe someone who eats eagerly and often to an excess. In this case, quantity plays a more important role than the quality or the presentation of the dish.
- But it can also be used to describe someone who enjoys eating well, both in quantity and in quality. If you take a look at French food blogs or websites, chances are you’ll come across quite a few recipes with the word gourmand in the title. Gourmand doesn’t always have a negative connotation! In this case, gourmet and gourmand mean similar things, but not similar enough for us to consider them synonyms.
It’s still worth knowing the difference between gourmet and gourmand, though. For example, telling a French-speaking friend or colleague you’re a gourmet or a gourmand can very well have different real-life outcomes. If they ever invite you over for dinner, it might change their approach to preparing the menu.
3. The French words gourmet and gourmand as adjectives
The word gourmet can, of course, be used as an adjective, too – to describe the food itself:
- un dessert gourmet = a gourmet dessert
- un dîner gourmet = a gourmet dinner
|It can also be used to describe a restaurant, a high-end diner, a cake shop, or any other establishment where the rules of fine dining might apply.|
un restaurant gourmet = a gourmet restaurant
|Gourmand, in contrast, doesn’t typically apply to food, but can be used as an adjective describing a person or other living thing in French (or even an object through personification).|
- être gourmand/ gourmande de qc = to eat sg. eagerly / greedily (e.g. fruits, sweets, meat…)
- un rouge-gorge gourmand = a greedy robin/ a robin that’s eager to eat
I hope this cleared things up and helped you further polish your French. If you happen to be interested in other articles exploring subtle (and not so subtle) differences between French words, then