Many Americans use the word "tab" as a noun when referring to an amount of money that is spent at a restaurant or a bar.

  • What was the tab for the food and the drinks?
  • What did the tab come to?
  • The waitress brought us our tab.
  • Who picked up the tab? (Who paid for the food?)
  • Jerry picked up the tab for the entire table. That was very generous of him.

A tab is also an amount of money that is added to a person’s credit card as her or she sits at a bar to eat and drink. This is a very convenient method of paying for food and beverages when someone is at a bar for a long time (two to three hours), especially while watching a football or baseball game or gathering with a large group of friends.

  • We ran up a tab at the bar.
  • Put that on my tab, please.
  • The bartender didn’t put the drinks on our tab because he said they were on the house.* (The drinks were free!)
  • The bartender closed out the tab before we left the bar. We added 20% as a tip.
  • The women sitting at the table forgot to pay the tab, but someone came back the next day to take care of it.

A tab is also a small piece of paper often associated with games of chance.

  • A customer at McDonald’s pulled back the tab to see if there was a prize of free food.
  • Pull tabs are a popular form of gambling.
  • The tab showed that she was a winner.

*on the house: the food or the merchandise is free. It’s paid for by the restaurant, the bar, or the hotel.

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August 8, 2013