My wife and I went on a picnic last week, and I started wondering where the word came from. From the OED:
- Definition: Originally: a fashionable social event at which each guest contributed a share of the food (now obsolete). Now: an informal meal eaten out of doors, especially as part of an excursion to the countryside, coast, etc.
- Etymology: French pique-nique (1694 in repas à piquenique; 1718 denoting a meal at which each person pays for his share or at which each person contributes a share of the food; subsequently also denoting a meal eaten out of doors, perhaps after English), probably from piquer + nique (14th or 15th century in Middle French in sense ‘nothing whatever’, second half of the 15th century in sense ‘small copper coin’; probably ultimately of imitative origin), although the latter word is apparently rare after the end of the 16th century.