Is there any difference between a pub, a bar, and a tavern (now or at any point in the past)?

Where does the term "public house" come from, and does the history or etymology of the terms "pub", "bar" and "tavern" help in clarifying any differences in the various modern usages of these terms?

closed as off-topic by Mari-Lou A, k1eran, Nigel J, RaceYouAnytime, NVZ Nov 6 '17 at 15:18

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  • I can't post this as an answer because my only source is Wikipedia, but the term arose somewhere around the 5th century due to alehouses becoming meeting houses for the people who lived near them. There isn't really a discernible difference between "pub", "bar" and "tavern" (tavern was the original term, deriving from the Latin "taberna"); they all describe public buildings where alcohol is served. There is an argument to be made that, at least in the past, a tavern was distinguished from a pub/bar by virtue of the fact that it provided lodgings as well as drink and food. – John Clifford Nov 6 '17 at 10:30
  • I googled "public house etymology" and 2nd hit explains it. etymonline.com/word/pub – k1eran Nov 6 '17 at 11:17
  • According to historic-uk.com/CultureUK/The-Great-British-Pub , alehouses, inns and taverns began to be called 'public houses' around the reign of Henry VII (1485-1509). My own impression, based on much reading of literature, is that 'public house' became a more common expression in the 19th century and 'pub' in the 20th. – Kate Bunting Nov 7 '17 at 9:47
  • There are no exact synonyms – Mitch Nov 8 '17 at 13:47
  • Is this question about interchanging words or the etymology of "public house"? Please define the question further so it's not casting such a wide net. – Hank Nov 8 '17 at 15:53

A Public House was just that - people in Anglo-Saxon times would open their houses for hospitality to others to meet up during ale and socialise, which developed into the "pub" of today.


The "bar" was the demarcated area between the public and private areas, and also

an oblong piece of any solid material


which evolved into the place where you stand to order the drinks, and finally to the name for the place.

Tavern, according to https://www.thefreedictionary.com/tavern

Middle English taverne, from Old French, from Latin taberna, hut, tavern, probably from *traberna, from trabs, trab-, beam; see trave

...that's a bit rough and ready, but no doubt others will improve on it!

Just to add that a "pub" is primarily a UK or Irish drinking establishment, usually a free-standing building, compared to a "tavern" which is more often part of a bigger building - like a row of shops. "Bar" is more commonly used for a drinking establishment in the US, but confusingly also as one of the rooms (the bar as opposed to the lounge) in a UK or Irish pub.

  • +1. As to improvements: "Bar" covers a wide range of drinking establishments, including chic city centre places serving primarily wine and cocktails. The only drinking establishment in an english country village, serving primarily beer, is a "pub", and is unlikely to be described as a "Bar". – AndyT Nov 8 '17 at 17:55
  • Yes... almost a blasphemy to call a village pub a "bar"! Thanks for the comment. – Harry Tuttle Nov 9 '17 at 10:08

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