à la

or a la or ala

[ah lah, ah luh]

What does à la mean?

RELATED WORDS

Borrowed from French, à la means "according to" or "in the manner of," e.g., everyday, observational humor à la Jerry Seinfeld (as Jerry Seinfeld would make jokes). In cooking, à la refers to a way of preparing a dish, e.g., chicken à la provençale (as traditionally cooked in Provence).

RELATED WORDS
Examples of à la

Advertisement

Examples of à la
Meat à la Bordelaise was served with a red wine and beef broth sauce, originating from the French region of Bordeaux.
Annie Ewbank, Atlas Obscura, April 2018
I haven’t thought as carefully about this as you but I think for years people were saying Microsoft needed to embrace the fact that it’s an enterprise company and stop trying to chase consumers a la Google and Apple ...
@jyarow, April 2019
thechurch.ie

Where does à la come from?

Flying Tiger Antiques

The prepositional phrase à la comes from French, where it means “according to the,” “in the manner of the,” or “to the.” What follows “the” (laà variously means “to, at, in, etc.”) in French is a feminine noun or adjective. For instance, tarte à la rhubarbe is “rhubarb pie” while the 2019 film L’Adieu à la nuit is “Goodbye to the Night.”

À la was recorded in English by the late 16th century. It appears in a few common phrases English also borrowed from French: à la mode, used in English to mean “in the current fashion, fashionable.” Pie à la mode is pie (or other desserts) topped with ice cream, once a fancy trend to describe such desserts starting in the late 1800s.

Breyers

Another culinary à la appears in à la carte (French, “according to the menu”), referring to ordering items on a menu separately and at their own price (i.e., you don’t have to order a fixed meal, but just the foods you want).

À la carte can be now used figuratively to describe someone who picks some things out of a larger set, e.g., an à la carte Catholic who (conveniently) believes in some aspects of the religion, but not others. À la carte television refers to customers paying for just channels they want, rather they having to pay for a whole (cable) service.

Who uses à la?

In English, à la has become an useful shorthand to indicate something (art, music, writing, etc.) is done in a manner or style similar to something else. In this way, à la is not unlike e.g., (“for example”) or like/as in. What follows à la is often an artist, public figure, or cultural product, e.g., a nostalgic teen sci-fi drama à la Stranger Things.

As noted, you’ll also encounter à la in culinary contexts, naming specific dishes or styles of preparation. One is chicken à la king, supposedly named for E. Clark King, a New York hotel owner. Some people may apply à la in their own cooking for an ironic flourish.

Because English users don’t know or don’t want to use (especially online) French accent markings, à la often gets spelled just a la or even as ala (or wrongly marked as á la, a’ la), which can make it easily confused with an abbreviation for, say, Alabama (Ala.) or organization names, such as the American Library Association (ALA).

Some writers may put à la in italics to show it is a foreign phrase, but it has become familiar in English that it necessarily doesn’t require italics.

Sign up for our Newsletter!
Start your day with new words, fun quizzes, and language stories.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.