[ sneez-gahrd ]


  1. a plastic or glass shield overhanging a salad bar, buffet, or the like to protect the food from contamination.

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Word History and Origins

Origin of sneezeguard1

First recorded in 1980–85


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More About Sneezeguard

What is a sneezeguard?

A sneezeguard (or sneeze guard) is a barrier usually made of plastic or glass that is intended to prevent the spread of germs, especially from sneezing or coughing.

Sneezeguards are most commonly used at salad bars and buffets in restaurants to protect food from being contaminated by germs. They do this by acting as a physical barrier between the food and people who may release germs by sneezing, coughing, or even speaking or exhaling above the food.

Restaurants are often required by law to have such barriers. They’re sometimes called food shields.

Sneezeguards can also be used in other situations to prevent the spread of germs directly from person to person. During the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, they were installed at places where people might have to be close to each other, such as between the cashier and the customer at checkout counters. Sometimes, personal face shields (consisting of a clear plastic shield that covers the whole face) are also called sneezeguards.

Example: A lot of grocery stores have installed sneezeguards at the cash register to prevent the virus from spreading between employees and customers.

Where does sneezeguard come from?

The first records of the word sneezeguard come from the 1980s. The origin of the term is self-explanatory: sneezeguards guard against sneezes and other possible sources of germs or contamination. The object predates the word, though. One of the first such barriers is thought to have been invented and patented by restaurant owner Johnny Garneau in the 1950s.

The sneezeguard is standard equipment at salad bars, and for good reason. All that food just sitting there is incredibly vulnerable to contamination from all the people standing above it. A simple way to reduce that risk is to just put something between people and the food: the sneezeguard. In the U.S. and other places, there are very strict and specific rules about the size and placement of these barriers (in official regulations, sneezeguards are often referred to by other names, such as food shields).

Though sneezeguards are most closely associated with salad bars and buffets, the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in increased demand for similar barriers to prevent person-to-person transmission of germs. These were installed in places where people might come close to each other, such as between treadmills at gyms or between salon workers and their customers.

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What are some other forms related to sneezeguard?

  • sneeze guard (alternate spelling)

What are some synonyms for sneezeguard?

What are some words that share a root or word element with sneezeguard

What are some words that often get used in discussing sneezeguard?

How is sneezeguard used in real life?

Sneezeguard is an informal word for a practical thing. Sneezeguards are most commonly associated with salad bars.



Try using sneezeguard!

True or False?

A sneezeguard is a person employed by restaurants to guard the salad bar.




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