View synonyms for fast food

fast food



  1. food, as hamburgers, pizza, or fried chicken, that is prepared in quantity by a standardized method and can be dispensed quickly at inexpensive restaurants for eating there or elsewhere.



[ fast-food, fahst- ]


  1. of or specializing in fast food.

fast food


  1. food that requires little preparation before being served


  1. (of a restaurant, café, etc) serving such food

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Word History and Origins

Origin of fast food1

An Americanism dating back to 1965–70

Origin of fast food2

An Americanism dating back to 1965–70

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Example Sentences

Given that Popeyes created a sensation when its chicken sandwich came out, it’s no wonder some fast food chains are already trying to compete with the new flounder option.

From Eater

Landing somewhere between promotional menu item and endorsement deal, the celebrity fast food order is somehow neither.

From Vox

On any given day, 36 percent of American adults eat fast food, according to a 2018 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

They’ve done an incredible job creating not just propaganda but the marketing efforts with the American flag and the fast food and the movies, that has sort of shaped the image of America all across the world.

From Ozy

More and more traditional food companies have launched plant-based meat brands, more and more fast food and casual dining restaurants have added menu options, and major players in the field have raised a lot of money.

From Vox

And if people find themselves dissatisfied with how often they turn to fast food, Bacon says to try things like batch cooking.

Fast food and personified death: not exactly Hallmark material.

Especially in the U.S., where fast food restaurants are abundant and two-thirds of people are overweight or obese.

He was hungry, so he brought along a fast food burger and soda to the studio.

Big Kahuna Burger is a fictional chain of Hawaiian-themed fast food burger joints out in Los Angeles dreamed up by Tarantino.

Out of the dense formations of endless fast food chains, Simon's novelties were to titillate the jaded restaurant goer.

"And perhaps it mightn't," said Tembarom, eating "break-fast-food" with a cheerful appetite.


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About This Word

What does fast food mean?

Fast food is food quickly prepared and served, often at chain restaurants and typically associated with less expensive and less nutritious items like hamburgers, french fries, and soft drinks.

Where does fast food come from?

The term fast food dates back to at least 1951, an industry term describing the new, and now ubiquitous, trend of restaurants providing food—fast. Its earliest use characterized service (e.g., fast-food service) before extending to the food served itself.

A prototype for fast-food restaurants were fish-and-chip shops in the U.K. starting in the 1860s. These provided quick, portable, and filling food on the go for dock workers and other city dwellers. In 1921, White Castle opened the first modern fast-food restaurant selling the now-familiar hamburgers and fries. In the 1950s, the term fast food emerged to describe this kind of grab-and-go meal available at new car-friendly restaurants such as McDonald’s, now synonymous with fast food across the globe.

Fast food had become so familiar, as a term and phenomenon, by the 1970s that fast food was used metaphorically for any mass-produced, cheap product (e.g., a fast-food education or the fast food of medicine).

How is fast food used in real life?

Fast food is widely used in speech and writing to refer to a meal or food item that is made and served quickly. It can be a noun (e.g., we ate fast food on our road trip) or adjective (e.g., fast-food fries are greasy but delicious).

Fast food typically connotes hamburgers and fries, as vended, often through drive-throughs, by leading brands such as McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, and Hardee’s/Carl’s Jr. But, fast food also includes sandwiches (Subway), burritos (Chipotle), fried chicken (KFC), pizza (Pizza Hut), Chinese food (Panda Express), desserts (Dairy Queen), and even coffee (Starbucks). Especially in Europe, fast food notably includes kebabs, gyros, and fish and chips.

Because fast food has been historically unhealthy, it sparked a backlash movement in the late 1970s that advocated for slow food. The idea is that food that takes longer to prepare—and is not ultra-processed—is healthier. Today, fast-food companies have taken steps to make their offerings healthier by offering options like salads.

Given historically low wages and challenging work conditions, fast food has also been used to connote a mindless, dead-end job (e.g., He’ll end up flipping burgers at a fast-food joint).

More examples of fast food:

“Today is National Fast Food Day! Did you know Robert C. Baker, the inventor of the chicken nugget, was a Purdue alum?
—@LifeAtPurude, November 2017

“America’s fast-food desserts straddle two very different categories: our country’s most horrific edible disasters and our most cherished culinary treasures.”
—Daniela Galarza & Ryan Sutton, Eater, April, 2018


This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.




fast followerfast-fooder