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OLPRO Picnic Club - The History of Picnics

Origin of the word

No British summer would be complete without the traditional, windswept picnic, with the entire family huddled together for shelter on a tartan blanket. But it’s actually our cousins across the Channel who came up with the idea.

Picnic originates from the French word – pique-nique which originally meant ‘an outing with food’. People would all bring food along for everyone to share. It wasn’t until the 19th century that the idea became associated exclusively with eating out side.

Pique actually means to leisurely eat, or pick at food, whilst nique was tacked on simply because it rhymed with pique. Historians have found references to pique-niques in other languages as early as 1748 and in English by around 1800.

History of picnics

Outdoor feasts have been popular since Medieval era when huge banquets were held prior to going hunting. But it was in the Victorian times that picnics really became fashionable – writers and painters drew inspiration from them and they appear in books by Dickens, Trollope and Jane Austen and paintings by Cezanne and Monet.


Prior to then, they were exclusively the realm of the wealthy. However, with the advent of the likes of Mrs Beeton and her famous book, they became accessible to all classes although they were still grand affairs.



Nowadays a picnic can be as simple as a quickly snatched sandwich and bag of crisps enjoyed al fresco at lunchtime.

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