I think it doesn't make sense to go over to the bar and ask for a burger, and then when the bartender replies "How would you like your burger", to answer "bloody" (I saw this in a movie but also heard someone use the word to describe their food).

I know that "bloody" is sometimes used for intensity, but what could it actually mean related to the concept of intensity when it's been used to describe a food item?

It doesn't makes any sense because there are many words that could be used, like "raw" (no "external/extra" processes done to the burger).

Is there any other sense of "bloody" that has been overlooked when using it in the context of food items?

  • 7
    You probably already know, but distaste for the word "bloody" is likely a regional thing. Use of this word as an expletive is very uncommon in the USA. Commented Dec 11, 2021 at 16:30
  • 11
    "Bloody" is just slang for rare. It was famously used in Pulp Fiction. When John Travolta ordered a steak, Steve Buscemi gave him the choice of it being prepared "burnt to a crisp" or "bloody as hell".
    – Umberto P.
    Commented Dec 11, 2021 at 17:37
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    That literal sense of ‘bloody’ is usually not considered vulgar, even when the other meanings are.
    – gidds
    Commented Dec 11, 2021 at 18:16
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    Interesting that you find the word strange. I have learned much of my English from a Texan and find bloody perfectly natural. A steak that's bloody oozes red fluid; it is literally bloody. Commented Dec 13, 2021 at 1:28
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    @Peter-ReinstateMonica Technically that red liquid is liquid from the muscle fibers colored by myoglobin, it's not the stuff found in blood vessels, so such a steak is not literally bloody (assuming you meant literal in the literal sense and not the figurative).
    – JAB
    Commented Dec 13, 2021 at 7:54

6 Answers 6


That sense of bloody means undercooked, so much so that pink juice comes out of it when a fork is put in it. The pink juice isn't exactly blood, but the expression is an exaggeration.

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    @VickyDev Yes, that's right, it’s myoglobin. They're saying they want their meat cooked "extra rare".
    – tchrist
    Commented Dec 11, 2021 at 1:28
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    "Walking away".
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Dec 11, 2021 at 1:31
  • 21
    @HotLicks Or, still mooing. Commented Dec 11, 2021 at 1:36
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    For a steak (not normally a burger) the "formal" or "technical" (or "self-satisfied" depending on your pov) term for this is 'Blue'.
    – Brondahl
    Commented Dec 11, 2021 at 12:42
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    My dad's a large-animal veterinarian, and he wouldn't order it that way, but he's gotten a very rare cook at least once and said, "I have my bag, I think I can save it". Commented Dec 11, 2021 at 16:02

An explanation for why some people say bloody to describe doneness could be an incorrect, literal translation from another language.

For example, "rare" is called saignant ("bloody") in French, and al sangue in Italian.

  • 6
    Note that the literal translation for “saignant” would be “bleeding”, “bloody” would be a translation for “sanglant” or “ensanglanté
    – Didier L
    Commented Dec 11, 2021 at 14:29
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    @DidierL Possibly, yes. Since we're talking about an incorrect translation anyway, I'm not sure there needs to be a "correct incorrect" translation. For what it's worth, I've already heard French people try to order a "bloody steak", and get amused or puzzled looks in return. Commented Dec 11, 2021 at 15:42
  • 1
    Oh I wouldn’t be surprised to hear French-speaking people say that (it’s my mother tongue too), it’s just that your answer says “literal” 😉
    – Didier L
    Commented Dec 11, 2021 at 15:54
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    @DidierL Some wordbooks seem to agree : wordreference.com/fren/saignant I've updated the answer to make it clear it's incorrect. Do you agree with how it's written now? Commented Dec 11, 2021 at 16:18
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    @EricDuminil A steak cooked to barely rare will have a lot of red liquid seeping from it. Strictly speaking, yes, it's not blood. Most people however don't know that it isn't blood, and if you try to explain the difference between blood and that red liquid, you'll be called a bloody a$$hole in Great Britain. Because "bloody" in the US doesn't have the negative connotation that it has in other parts of the English speaking world, you're likely to hear "bloody" replaced with the F-bomb in American English. Commented Dec 14, 2021 at 11:37

To make the person who's saying it sound like a strong, tough carnivore.


"How would you like your steak, sir?" the waiter asked Mike. Mike pushed back on his boots, leaned back in his chair, raised the brim of his cowboy hat so he could look into the waiter's eye.

"Bloody." Mike replied. "The only way steak should be eaten."

  • 2
    Yes, this is something other answers have missed -- it signals to the audience that this is a tough-guy character; but you could make it a complete sentence and expand on the cultural aspect? Commented Dec 11, 2021 at 22:04

All of this response is about how things are in the United States.

There is no other sense in which "bloody" is used to refer to a food item, and the term "bloody" is reserved exclusively for beef products. One can refer to a burger, a steak, or any other beef-based product as being served "bloody". There is no authoritative description of the meaning of this term in the American lexicon. What is happening here, is an over-exaggeration of the desired state of the served meat. The individual ordering their beef prepared "bloody" is accomplishing several things in one apparently simple statement. First, the obvious: they are requesting that their beef product be served as rare as possible under the circumstances. Second, the expressing a lifelong ennui which cannot be dispelled by any means. Additionally, they may be expressing a type of "alpha male" mentality that requires them to demonstrate their manhood at any given opportunity in a variety of interesting and expressive manners.

Simply put, the guy (it's almost always a guy) ordering his meat "bloody" really just means he's that he's unhappy and wants his beef rare.

Experiences in other countries may vary wildly.

  • 1
    Is medium rare not considered to be "bloody" by americans?
    – minseong
    Commented Dec 12, 2021 at 20:47
  • 4
    No. Rare rare is considered bloody by Americans. But again, it's a machismo thing, so YMMV Commented Dec 13, 2021 at 0:15
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    Re it's almost always a guy. That's not my experience. I have a sister in law who wants her steaks "still mooing". It was a female coworker who convinced me to try beef tatami at a local Japanese restaurant, and another who convinced me to try beef tartare at a different restaurant. Commented Dec 13, 2021 at 11:38
  • @theonlygusti "Bloody" generally means "as rare as I can get it". Usually that isn't medium-rare. Commented Dec 13, 2021 at 14:10
  • 1
    Depending on the restaurant you go to, good luck getting anything less than medium, no matter what you tell them you want.
    – chepner
    Commented Dec 13, 2021 at 20:32

Exaggerating how bloody or only newly killed the beef may be are requests for increasingly rare cooking. Such descriptions can get absurd. "He looked at my rare steak and said, 'I seen them hurt worse than that, get up and run away'".

Terms for cooking meat are Rare, Medium and Well-Done. Gradations of this, not mine but from Samson's Paddock https://medium.com/@samsonspaddockau/whats-the-difference-between-rare-medium-and-well-done-steak-fe463e0f960f

are as follows: Rare; 1 minute each side

Medium Rare; 2 minute each side

Medium; 3 minute each side

Medium Well; 4 minute each side

Well; 5 minute each side

Rare refers to a steak that’s been cooked for a very short period of time — leaving the centre cool and red in colour. It’s just a stage up from raw meat — but cooked on the outside. Steak doesn’t contain parasites that chicken and pork do — eating it rare doesn’t pose any health risks.

From https://medium.com/@samsonspaddockau/whats-the-difference-between-rare-medium-and-well-done-steak-fe463e0f960f

  • 1
    I don't think the parasites that chickens get can be passed on to humans as bacteria can (e.g., Salmonella).
    – DjinTonic
    Commented Dec 11, 2021 at 11:13
  • 5
    Diners in my country (USA) would generally be ill advised to order a burger on the rare side (and many eateries refuse to serve them), since our slaughterhouses, aiming for cheapness at all costs, routinely contaminate the cut surfaces of meats, and the grinding distributes the contamination. Commented Dec 11, 2021 at 13:01
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    Steak is a different matter, but timing for each gradation will vary with both with the thickness of the steak and the heat source. Doneness of meat is better measured by thermometer than stopwatch. Commented Dec 11, 2021 at 13:11
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    @BrianDonovan yeah, a thin "sizzler" steak from the supermarket will get well done in the time it'd take to get a decent filet mignon warmed up and rare. For a given cut & thickness though a stopwatch can be a reasonable guide though (provided you have a fairly normal heat source, and not an extremely strong or weak one). I don't know about where you are, but here (UK), steaks in the supermarket usually have cooking times on them that are fairly accurate (and obviously vary by cut and thickness)
    – Tristan
    Commented Dec 11, 2021 at 17:08
  • 1
    Your last sentence is plain wrong..
    – user21820
    Commented Dec 13, 2021 at 18:38

Cooking meat:

  • well done, medium rare, rare, very rare or bloody

very rare = bloody. Very unusual in NA and UK, etc.

In French cooking, this level of cooking (barely allowing the meat to sit on the grill or in the pan so the outside is browned or seared) is called bleu. Very often, when meat is cooked like this, it still has blood in it.

A lexicon for ordering your steak in France

Bleu – (Pronounced ble).This is an extraordinarily rare steak, singed outside and bloody inside. [very rare or bloody]
Saignant – (Pronounced say-nyon, do not pronounce the T). The French term for a rare steak. [rare]
À Point - (Pronounced ah pwa). Perfectly cooked. À point is used in the French kitchen for any food perfectly cooked, not just steaks! Forget what the guidebook says. For a steak, a point does not mean medium-rare! When an Italian chef wants perfect pasta, he or she will say al dente. In France for the same perfect pasta, a French chef would say à point: perfectly cooked. A steak in France cooked “ à point,” will be rare-to-medium-rare, with the accent on the rare. Rare-to-medium-rare is how the majority of Frenchmen and women prefer their steak and that is "à point", perfectly cooked.** [Medium rare]

ordering steak in French

Please note: The degrees of cookedness in French and English are not equivalent. Generally speaking, the French never eat their meat well done. That is a faux pas. (Of course, there will always be someone who does eat their meat well done (bien cuit) in France. Never say never). Generally speaking, in NA or the UK, one doesn't eat one's meat "bloody". However, one could say that to describe very rare, if one wanted to.

[Please note: I quoted the text above, with guidance to pronunciation in French that is wrong, for the explanations. Please do not edit the mistakes. I don't think mistakes should be edited. ]

  • 3
    note, a very rare steak is actually extremely unlikely to contain actual blood. The "blood" you see when you cut into a blue steak is actually myoglobin. The actual blood will have been drained at the abattoir. I think you're also underestimating the number of Anglophones who like their meat saignant or even bleu. It's certainly much less common than in France, and the proportion who'd eat their meat ~~ruined~~ well done is certainly much higher, but there are a fair few of us who want the inside pretty much uncooked
    – Tristan
    Commented Dec 11, 2021 at 17:17
  • 1
    "ah pwa" ("à pois") would mean "spotted", and "say-nyon" ("saigons") would be imperative form of bleed, first person plural ("let us bleed", more or less). Saying that "à point" is perfectly cooked is subjective, too. Also note that "bien cuit" is how you would order "well done". It is indeed odd, but it happens.
    – njzk2
    Commented Dec 11, 2021 at 17:19
  • 1
    @Lambie: I'm pointing out that if you pronounce "ah pwa", you're saying "à pois", not "à point". "Saigons" is a typo, sorry about that. The point remains that if you are saying "say-nyon", you are saying "saignons", not "saignant".
    – njzk2
    Commented Dec 11, 2021 at 21:49
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    @njzk2 You're correct: Lambie used bad spelling-pronunciations; compare saignons with its /õ/. In French, saignant is /sɛ.ɲɑ̃/ with no "o" sound just nasalized "ɑ"; à point is /ɑ pwɛ̃/ with no "a" sound just nasalized open "ɛ"; and bleu is /blø/ where ø is the close-mid front rounded vowel as heard in FR peu.
    – tchrist
    Commented Dec 12, 2021 at 18:12
  • 1
    Sorry about that. I couldn't tell that those were quoted text. It looks better now.
    – tchrist
    Commented Dec 12, 2021 at 20:10

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