My friend said "pizza" was not in a collegiate dictionary from the early 80s. He said he confirmed that recently when he found the same edition of that dictionary. I know the word has been around for a very long time! Was it just that one dictionary? It seems like a collegiate dictionary would be even MORE likely to contain "pizza"! Maybe they just assumed all college students know what it is...

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  • I think it's a matter of opinion which publications count as "credible" dictionaries, so establishing which of those was the last one to include any given word must also be a matter of opinion. – FumbleFingers Jan 16 '17 at 14:29

The first English dictionary that I can find that contains an entry for pizza is

Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary (1953) (Internet Archive)

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It also appears in Webster's Collegiate Dictionary 7th edition (1963). This dictionary is based on the groundbreaking Webster's Third New International Dictionary of 1961, which was a descriptive dictionary.

The Oxford English Dctionary (OED) does not contain an entry for pizza until 1982, in A Supplement to the OED, volume III. The 1989 second edition of the Oxford English Dictionary also contains an entry for pizza, with the earliest given usage as 1935. The 3rd edition of the OED contains earlier references for pizza, and both it and Webster say that the earliest known use is 1825. (The OED 3rd also cites a 1598 usage from an Italian-English Dictionary, but the sense of pizza is "a kind of cake or simnell or wafer.")

The Oxford Dictionary of Word Origins explains:

Baroness Frances Bunsen (1791-1876) was a diplomat's wife who travelled widely. A letter about one of her trips has given us the first mention of the pizza, in 1825: 'They gave us ham, and cheese, and frittata [a kind of omelette], and pizza.'

Here is a snippet from the online OED, which shows the publication history of pizza in the OED:

enter image description here

Pizza does not appear in the 1st edition of the OED or the 1933 supplement.

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    Hard to believe that it took OED 50 years to publish the term pizza, – user66974 Jan 16 '17 at 23:25
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    Pizza restaurants were opened in London at least from the '40s /'50s - "Although not the first, one of the most interesting Italian pizza restaurants in London was launched by the film director Mario Zampi in the 1950s and was run by his brother and sister-in-law." - books.google.it/… – user66974 Jan 16 '17 at 23:39
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    @Josh The OED was not churned out every ten years. There were no supplements from the one in 1933 to ones beginning 40 years later. See the OED's publication history. – AmE speaker Jan 16 '17 at 23:47

According to the following Italian source the term "pizza" was registered in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1935.

  • Stranamente la Pizza, oggi comunque universale, sembra aver raggiunto l'inghilterra più tardi che gli altri due paesi, essendo registrata nell'Oxford English Dictionary con la datazione 1935, nelle fonti francesi e tedesche invece con le datazioni 1888 e 1879 rispettivamente

(Bootstrapping Information from Corpora in a Cross-linguistic Perspective)

  • Note that the same date appears also in other sources like Etymonline for instance.

The term was probably known and used in earlier years as suggested here:

  • In the US, Italian immigrants sold pizza in their stores, and the first pizzeria was opened in 1905 by Gennaro Lombardi at 53 1/3 Spring Street in New York City, but pizza did not truly not catch on stateside until World War II. Stationed in Italy, many American and European soldiers tasted pizza, and brought an appetite for this now-ubiquitous dish home with them.


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    Because words don’t get registered until they reach a certain frequency of use, you probably don’t need to hedge your statement with probably in “The term was probably known and used...”. :) – tchrist Jan 16 '17 at 16:07
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    The word pizza does not appear in the OED until the 1980s. – AmE speaker Jan 16 '17 at 21:58
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    @Clare - can you provide evidence of this? – user66974 Jan 16 '17 at 22:41
  • Yes, see my answer. But briefly there was no OED published in 1935. After the first edition, the OED was not updated until a 1933 supplement (this supplement does not contain pizza). After 1933, the OED was not updated again until further supplements were published beginning in the 1970s. Pizza does not appear until a 1982 supplement. The 2nd edition of the OED was published in 1989 and includes pizza and lists the earliest usage as 1935 (this is what your source is referring to). Subsequent to 1989, the OED has been in a continual process of updating. By 2006 the OED contained an... – AmE speaker Jan 17 '17 at 14:46
  • .. updated entry for pizza, which includes both a 1598 reference to an Italian-English Dictionary (but whose definition of pizza is different from that of the modern one) and a handful of other usages that predate 1935. Thus, your Italian source, and Etymology online, is out of date. And your answer is factually incorrect. – AmE speaker Jan 17 '17 at 14:49

Pizza is, of course, not an English word in terms of origin, but comes from Italy. Specifically the first appearance of the word, in Latin, dates from 997 AD in southern Italy, according to the Wikipedia article on Pizza.

The use of the term "collegiate dictionary" in your question suggests you're interested in the American usage of the word in particular. The Wikipedia article tells us that Pizza (the dish) appeared in the US in the late 19th century, but that the return of veterans from fighting in Italy after World War Two led to a significant increase in pizza consumption.

Exactly when it a appeared in a particular dictionary depends on which dictionary you're interested in, but it's reasonable to deduce from the above that "pizza" was becoming a well known term in the US in the mid 20th century.

  • Interesting. But this doesn't really address the question directly. – Edwin Ashworth Jan 16 '17 at 15:25

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