Intermediate+ Word of the Day: treat

treat (noun, verb) /trit/ LISTEN

A treat is anything that gives pleasure, usually paid for by someone else as a way of showing affection. As a verb, when you treat someone to something, you are buying them food or taking them out to have fun. Treat also means to deal with something or someone in a specific way.

Example sentences

  • A whole weekend by the lake for my birthday? What a treat!
  • Antonia's parents treated her to a fancy meal in town for her graduation.
  • Lucy treated the guitar with care, since she knew it was one of her father's favorite things.
  • We were always treated with respect at Sarah's house.

Words often used with treat

treat yourself: This means ‘to do something nice for yourself’ or ‘to buy yourself something.’ Example: “Sue got a bonus at work, so she’s going to treat herself to a new pair of shoes.”

my treat: English speakers use this expression to say they are paying for something. Example: “Put your money away! This is my treat.”

special treat: We call something a special treat when it’s a food, usually a dessert like a cookie, that we don’t get very often. A special treat can also be an experience that someone gives you, like a trip to the museum. Example: “As a special treat, I’m going to have a brownie for dessert.”

Did you know?

“Trick or treat” is what children say when they go from door to door on Halloween. In theory, it means that if the person opening the door doesn’t give the children a treat (normally some candy), they will play a trick on him or her (though they really don’t do that anymore). This is often thought of as an American tradition. The modern version developed in the US in the twentieth century, becoming very common from the 1940s onward. It only became popular in the UK and Ireland during the 1980s. However, the tradition has its roots in the practice of souling, once common across Europe, where poor people would go from house to house asking for food in return for prayers for the dead, and the Scottish practice of guising, where people in costumes would go from door to door and perform some sort of entertainment in return for their treat.

In pop culture

Watch this clip from the cartoon Charlie Brown, in which the kids go trick-or-treating:

Additional information

Treat can also be used in a medical context: doctors and nurses treat patients.

Other forms

treater (noun), treatable (adjective), treatment (noun)


Treat, originally meaning ‘to negotiate, bargain or deal with,’ dates back to the late 13th century, as the Middle English verb treten. It came into English from the Old French traitier (‘to deal with,’ ‘act toward’ or ‘set forth in writing’), and can be traced back to the Latin tractāre (literally ‘to drag, tug, haul or pull violently,’ but also ‘to manage, handle or deal with’ and ‘to conduct yourself toward’), a frequentative of trahēre (to pull or draw), ultimately from the Proto-Indo-European root tragh-, possibly a variant of ‘dhregh- (to draw or pull on the ground). Treat is related to the Slovenian trag (trace or track), the Middle Irish tragud (ebb) and the English word tract, and also possibly related to the Old Norse draga (to drag), the Sanskrit dhrajati (pulls or slides in) and the Russian drogi (wagon) and doroga (way), as well as the English words drag and draw. The senses ‘to deal with or handle’ and ‘to develop in speech or writing’ both appeared in the early 14th century, despite the fact that they existed in the French source. These led to the medical sense, though it was not recorded until the late 18th century. The sense ‘to entertain with food and drink’ was first used around the year 1500. The noun, originally meaning ‘the action of discussing terms,’ dates back to the late 14th century, and comes from the verb. The sense ‘a treating with food or drink’ was first used in the mid-17th century, and expanded to ‘something that provides pleasure’ by the mid-18th century.

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