"Barbecue" vs. "Barbeque": Which Spelling Is Correct?

Updated April 10, 2023
Meanings of the words "barbecue" and "barbeque" from the article.
    Meanings of the words barbecue and barbeque
    Created by YourDictionary via Getty Images
    Owned by YourDictionary, copyright YourDictionary

You’ve got the gear, the rubs, the skills, and the reputation, and you know absolutely everything about the art of barbecue, except maybe one thing: Is it spelled barbecue or barbeque?

Is It “Barbecue” or “Barbeque”?

The original correct spelling is barbecue. It comes from the Taino word barabicu, which means “sacred pit” and describes the act of cooking meat slowly over an open flame. 

Barbecue (spelled with a “c”) was first recorded by Samuel Johnson in 1755 in The Dictionary of the English Language.

  • I’m having a barbecue this weekend if you’d like to come.
  • Let’s barbecue some ribs and enjoy the sunset.
  • Have you tried this new barbecue sauce?
Example English Words of Spanish Origin

List of English Words of Spanish Origin That Might Surprise You

Is “Barbeque” Incorrect?

Even though the word was originally spelled barbecue, barbeque is a perfectly acceptable (and until recently, the preferred) way to spell the word. It’s even more acceptable since the abbreviation of barbecue tends to be “BBQ” — notice the “q.”

While barbeque is considered to be a variant spelling of barbecue, chances are good that people will RSVP “yes” to either a barbecue or a barbeque, so spell it however you want.


Other Words for “Barbecue”

How do you describe a barbecue where you live? If you’re from the West Coast, you barbecue meat on a barbecue and serve it at a barbecue.

However, Southerners and Northeasterners barbecue meat on a grill, and serve it at a cookout. (Hint: These are the same thing, though recipes may vary by region). 

Australians often refer to a barbecue as a barbie, but they don’t love the phrase “shrimp on the barbie,” despite what Paul Hogan says.

Other names for barbecues and barbecuing include:

  • BBQ
  • Bar-B-Q
  • grill
  • roast
  • spit-roast
  • wiener roast
  • charbroil

The Origins of Barbecue (The Food and the Word)

Barbecue is known as an American tradition, and for good reason. George Washington himself was a frequent barbecuer (making your President’s Day barbecue an even better idea than you thought). 

But the etymology of barbecue actually started with the Taino, a subgroup of the Arawakan tribe located in Haiti and other islands in the Caribbean. When Spanish explorers discovered their barabicu cooking style (roasting meat over an open fire pit) in the 1600s, they called it barbacoa and brought it to their settlements in the now-Southern United States and Mexico.


Fast Fact

There’s a common theory that barbecue comes from barbe à queue, which is French for “from head to tail,” and could describe the act of cooking a whole pig. 


But barbe actually means “beard” in French, leaving one with a somewhat unappetizing mental image of a bearded pig being roasted.