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I learned a word "バイキング". The meaning of this word in the dictionary includes both "smorgasbord" and "all-you-can-eat buffet". However, as I know, there are some differences between the two English word.

I also find an example sentence: 朝食はバイキング形式だって。

Can anyone suggest what this word refers to. Can I call all the kinds of "serve-yourself" food as バイキング? Besides, how does this word get the meaning like this while it should be "Viking" in English?

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I checked this one before when I researched the semantic shift of loanwords for the question here. From my memory, when in 1950s a Japanese restaurant owner watched an American movie which describes Vikings are eating what they want as much as they want, he wanted to import the eating style to Japan but it’s hard for Japanese to pronounce smorgasbord. Therefore he named all you can eat buffet “バイキング”.

I often see 食べ放題 or ビュッフェ is more often than バイキング for all-you-can-eat style recently.

I think There are similar posts about dramatic semantic shift of loanwords in this site(ex: マイブーム).

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食べ放題 is "all-you-can-eat" (regardless of whether a waiter servers your food to your table), and セルフサービス is "self-service" (regardless of whether your food is provided at a fixed fee). バイキング usually means both 食べ放題 and セルフサービス. As far as I know, バイキング is almost the same as buffet in English. As many people began to recognize バイキング is a weird 和製英語, recently I'm seeing ビュッフェ more often, especially in classy restaurants.

For the etymology, see other answers.

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It may sound kind of funny, but at least one of the reasons is it comes from the idea of vikings eating large amounts at feasts etc.

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  • not sure why this is downvoted when it's actually correct - I asked a native japanese speaker and thats what they said- plus it doesnt go against the other answers.. – Pootan Oct 21 '17 at 12:18

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