In contemporary usage, picnic can be defined simply as a pleasure
excursion at which a meal is eaten outdoors, ideally, taking place in a
Formerly, picnic meant a potluck, an entertainment at which each
person contributed some dish to a common table for all to share. The first
usage of the word was traced to a 16th century French text, describing a
group of people dining in a restaurant who brought their own wine. The word
picnic is based on the verb piquer which means 'pick' or 'peck' with
the rhyming nique meaning "thing of little importance".
The 1692 edition of Origines de la Langue
Françoise de Ménage,
which mentions 'piquenique' as being of recent origin, marks the first
appearance of the word in print. The word picnic first appeared in English
texts in the mid-1700s, and may have entered the English language from this
French word or from the German Picknick.
While in British
and American English one would say "driving
in rush hour traffic is no picnic", an
Australian or New Zealander would say
"driving in rush hour traffic is a real
picnic"; these reversed idioms both
suggesting a difficult task.
In the late 1990s
an e-mail hoax spread around the internet claiming
that the word "picnic" was actually
derived from racist term for a lynching. This
claim had no basis in fact.
parks, a picnic area generally includes
picnic tables and possibly other items related to
eating outdoors, such as built-in grills, water
faucets, garbage containers, and restrooms.
usually not allowed in amusement parks, etc,
because it could damage the sales of restaurants,
snack bars, and food kiosks in the park.
in the wider sense of eating brought-along food,
may or may not be allowed in public transport.
French Revolution in 1789, royal parks became open to
the public for the first time. Picnicking in the parks
became a popular activity amongst the newly
Early in the
19th century, a fashionable group of Londoners formed
the 'Picnic Society'. Members met in the Pantheon on
Oxford Street. Each member was expected to provide a
share of the entertainment and of the refreshments
with no one particular host. Interest in the society
waned in the 1850s as the founders died.
The image of
picnics as a peaceful social activity can be utilized
for political protest too. In this context, a picnic
functions as a temporary occupation of significant
public territory. A famous example of this is the
Paneuropean Picnic held on both sides of the Hungarian
/ Austrian border on the August 19, 1989 as part of
the struggle towards German reunification.
In the year
2000, a 600-mile-long picnic took place from coast to
coast in France to celebrate the first Bastille Day of
the new Millennium. In the United States, likewise,
the 4th of July celebration of American independence
is a popular day for a picnic. In Italy the favorite
picnic day is 'Angel's Monday', also known as
Pasquetta (= 'little easter'), the day after Easter.