cafeteria

[kaf-i-teer-ee-uh]
noun
1.
a restaurant in which patrons wait on themselves, carrying their food to tables from counters where it is displayed and served.
2.
a lunchroom or dining hall, as in a factory, office, or school, where food is served from counters or dispensed from vending machines or where food brought from home may be eaten.

Origin:
1830–40, Americanism; < American Spanish cafetería café, equivalent to Spanish cafeter(a) coffeemaker (< French caf(f)etière; café coffee + -ière, feminine of -ier -ier2; t apparently by analogy with words such as bouquetière flower seller, from bases ending in t) + -ía -ia

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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Collins
World English Dictionary
cafeteria (ˌkæfɪˈtɪərɪə)
 
n
a self-service restaurant
 
[C20: from American Spanish: coffee shop]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Etymonline
Word Origin & History

cafeteria
1839, Amer.Eng. from Mexican Sp. cafeteria "coffee store," from café "coffee" + Sp. -tería "place where something is done" (usually business). The ending came to be understood popularly as meaning "help-yourself" (as though café + -teria) and was extended to new formation with that
sense from c.1923.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Encyclopedia Britannica
Encyclopedia

cafeteria

self-service restaurant in which customers select various dishes from an open-counter display. The food is usually placed on a tray, paid for at a cashier's station, and carried to a dining table by the customer. The modern cafeteria, designed to facilitate a smooth flow of patrons, is particularly well-adapted to the needs of institutions-schools, hospitals, corporations-attempting to serve large numbers of people efficiently and inexpensively. In addition to providing quick service, the cafeteria requires fewer service personnel than most other commercial eating establishments.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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Example sentences
They thought they'd help themselves, on the cafeteria principle, to the maximum
  amount they could safely get away with.
Now a new study suggests that the same strategy can get kids to make healthy
  choices in the school cafeteria.
Muskrat lunch was also available in the school cafeteria.
The camps are on college campuses, and so lunch is usually at the college
  cafeteria.
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