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From Middle English vitaile, vitaylle, from Anglo-Norman and Old French vitaille, from Late Latin victualia (provisions), from victus (nourishment), from vīvō (live, survive).



victual (plural victuals)

  1. (archaic) Food fit for human consumption.
    • 1603, Richard Knolles, The Generall Historie of the Turkes
      He was not able to keep that place with his Souldiers three days for lack of victual.
    • ?, Alfred Tennyson, Geraint and Enid
      There came a fair-hair'd youth, that in his hand / Bare victual for the movers.
  2. (archaic, in the plural) Food supplies; provisions.
    • 1598?, William Shakespeare, Two Gentlemen of Verona, Act II, scene I line 181:
      though the chameleon Love can feed on the air, I am one that am nourished by my victuals and would fain have meat.
    • 1793, Benjamin Franklin, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin[1], §18:
      He agreed to try the Practice if I would keep him Company. I did so and we held it for three Months. We had our Victuals dress’d and brought to us regularly by a Woman in the Neighborhood, who had from me a List of 40 Dishes to be prepar’d for us at different times, in all which there was neither Fish Flesh nor Fowl, and the whim suited me the better at this time from the Cheapness of it, not costing us above 18d Sterling each, per Week.
  3. (Scotland) Grain of any kind.



victual (third-person singular simple present victuals, present participle victualing or victualling, simple past and past participle victualed or victualled)

  1. (transitive, especially nautical, military) To provide with food; to provision.
    • c. 1599, William Shakespeare, As You Like It, Act V, Scene 4,[2]
      [] thy loving voyage
      Is but for two months victuall’d.
    • 1683, Edward Chamberlayne, The Present State of England, London: William Whitwood, Part 4, Chapter 4, p. 59,[3]
      I could here set down the very number of Acres that would bear Bread and Drink, Corn, together with Flesh, Butter, and Cheese, sufficient to Victual nine Millions of Persons, as they are Victualled in Ships and regular Families []
    • 1776, Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, London: W. Strahan & T. Cadell, Volume I, Book I, Chapter 11, Part 1, p. 189,[4]
      It was then [] given in evidence by a Virginia merchant, that in March, 1763, he had victualled his ships for twenty-four or twenty-five shillings the hundred weight of beef, which he considered as the ordinary price []
    • 1838, William H. Prescott, History of the Reign of Ferdinand and Isabella the Catholic, New York: A.L. Burt, Volume I, Chapter 14, pp. 308-309,[5]
      [] as due time had been given for preparation, the town was victualled for fifteen months’ provisions, and even the crops growing in the vega had been garnered before their prime, to save them from the hands of the enemy.
  2. (intransitive, especially nautical, military) To lay in food supplies.
    • 1697, William Dampier, A New Voyage Round the World, London: James Knapton, Chapter 9, p. 260,[6]
      [] the same Guide which told us of that Ship would have conducted us where we might had store of Beef and Maiz: but instead thereof we lost both our time and the opportunity of providing our selves, and so were forced to be victualling when we should have been cruizing off Cape Corrientes in expectation of the Manila Ship.
  3. (intransitive) To eat.
    • 1680, Thomas Shadwell, The Woman-Captain, London: Samuel Carr, Act II, p. 20,[7]
      I have Drank and Victual’d at Sir Humphrey’s for a Months Famine I am to endure here—I am hung round with Bottles and stuft full of Provision; will you eat a Pullet?

Related terms[edit]