1718, "cupboard, sideboard, etc., to hold china plates, etc.," from French bufet "bench, stool, sideboard" (12c.), which is of uncertain origin. Sense in English extended to "refreshment bar, place set aside for refreshments in public places" (1792), then, via buffet-table, buffet-car (1887), buffet-lunch, etc., by 1951 to "meal served from a buffet." The French word was borrowed in Middle English in the sense "low stool" (early 15c.) but became obsolete.