The Meaning of A La: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of a la? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word a la, including its definition, etymology, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What does the phrase a la mean?

According to Grammarist and Collins English Dictionary, the term a la is a shortened phrase from the French à la mode de, which translates literally to in the style of. Americans have dropped the final mode de section, but the definition remains the same. English-speakers use a la to mean in the style or manner of a particular person, thing, particular place, or other categories. This is considered a casual term, so  like many slang terms, it is not for use in formal or professional writing or speech. One would usually use this term after an adjective or verb, and before the person or thing it is being compared to. French people would more commonly use the full form of the phrase.

You might hear this term used by English speakers with other French words in the terms a la carte menu, a la mode de, or a la mode, which most frequently means to add ice cream to something, an option you might see on a dessert menu. A la carte literally translates to according to the menu (as opposed to set menus), and a la mode means in the current fashion, per Dictionary. There is also a chicken dish called chicken a la provençale. Sometimes this term is spelled as one word – ala – but this is incorrect, and an abbreviation for the United States of America state of Alabama.

What are synonyms for the term a la?

There are many different words and phrases in English that one can use in place of the French term a la. These are called synonyms. Synonyms are words and phrases that have the same or a similar definition to another given word or phrase. If someone is not familiar with the French term, it is useful to use a synonym. This list of synonyms is provided by Word Hippo Thesaurus

  • like 
  • much like
  • after the fashion of 
  • comparable with
  • so as 
  • on the model of 
  • resembling 
  • reminiscent of 
  • in a similar way to 
  • to 
  •  on a par with
  • the same as 
  • akin to 
  • in the character of 
  • characteristic of 
  • close to 
  • along the lines of 
  • in the vein of 
  • in the role of 
  • to appear to be 
  • in the same way as 
  • identical to 
  • in the function of 
  • not unlike 
  • as good as
  •  tantamount to 
  • approaching 
  • in the style of 
  • following the pattern of 
  • in imitation of 
  • with the appearance of 
  • equivalent to 
  • such as 
  • similar to 
  • influenced by 
  • same as
  • just like 
  • on the lines of 
  • in the manner of 
  • in the same manner as 
  • as per in character with 
  • approximating 
  • bordering on 
  • as in the guise of 
  • equal to 
  • after
  • near 

How can the phrase a la be used in a sentence?

The term a la can be used in many different ways in the English language. Using words and phrases in a sentence is a great way to remember their definition. Try using this word of the day in a sentence today to memorize its definition, or make yourself flashcards or quizzes to memorize its definition and usage. Below are examples of a la.

I think we should all order off of the a la carte menu and share the individual dishes. That way, we can all get a side dish size of all of the orders, and unlimited choices as opposed to just one restaurant meal. And no one has to pay a separate price!

She added mushrooms to the dish, a la our mother’s beef stroganoff. I hated mushrooms as a child, and I hate them know. Just like home!

The student wrote a short poem a la Ogden Nash that got picked up by publishers at Harpercollins Publishers and Random House. He went from completely unknown to world-famous poet in a matter of months.

We designed the architecture of our house a la a Victorian manor. I was obsessed with that style since I was a little girl and my grandmother gave me a pink, Victorian dollhouse. This is my dream home and I’m so happy that it is finally a reality.

My date last night told joke after joke a la Jerry Seinfeld. Little does he know, I cannot stand people who make jokes out of everything. Suffice it to say, I will not be seeing him again. 

I’m going to go cut up the pies in a couple of minutes. Can everyone please let me know if they would like their pie a la mode, warmed up, neither, or both?

What is the origin of the term a la?

According to Etymonline, the term a la comes directly from the French à la, which is “to the” in the literal translation. Thus, this term has come to mean “in the manner of.” The French à la comes from the Latin ad meaning to and the French la, the feminine form of the article le, from the Latin ille or illa. This has been used in English to refer to French terms and cookery since the late 16th century, and since 1800 with native English words or names.  

Overall, the term a la is an early 19th century loan from the French a la mode de, which means in the style or manner of. This term is used to compare two different things, and is also used in phrases like a la carte and a la mode.

Sources:

  1. a la | Origin and meaning of phrase a la | Online Etymology Dictionary 
  2. What is another word for “a la”? | Word Hippo 
  3. Who uses à la? | Dictionary
  4. How to Use A la (à la) Correctly | Grammarist 
  5. À la definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary