Intimately linked to the hospitality industry, from the lower Latin “hospitale” which prefigures the principle of hospitality (used by the Roman architect Vitruvius to describe in the 1st century BC a “room intended to receive guests” or “room for foreigners “, and included in the text of the Salic law, written in the early Middle Ages,” panem aut hospitalem dederit “). The first direct use of the word “hotel” also seems to date from the 11th century, to specify a
“Accommodation, accommodation” then a “place where we find home, accommodation, especially for people of war” but also for pilgrims. One of the first senses would be equivalent to “encampment”. In the thirteenth century, the song of gesture Huon de Bordeaux evokes it as
“Guest house in a monastery” while Benoit de Sainte-Maure, in “The Trojan novel”, describes “holding ostel” as having a house, an open table and leading a certain lifestyle. The hotel then becomes more of a royal palace, a manor house, a quality house. Jean Froissart describes in his famous chronicles of the end of the fourteenth century “the princes of Wales prist congiet and retires to his hostel Berkamestede”. In the fifteenth century the word visibly embraces a new meaning, that of “common ostel” that is to say, common house, city hall. Hotel derivatives are found in many regional languages (“hoté”, “ôtau” in Burgundy, “outeau” in Franche-Comté, “hostal”,
“Ostal”, “ostau” in Provençal; “Oste”, “hosté” in Walloon) or in European languages of Latin origin (“hostal” in Spanish, “ostello” in Italian) and appears in one of the first French-English dictionaries published at the beginning of the 17th century by the English philologist Randle Cotgrave, “who comes to his hostel, the better he is at his supper.” Some languages have assimilated, as in its use in ancient French, “hotel” and “hoste” (especially in Switzerland where we find “outa” in Geneva, “outo”, “oito” in Vaudois “outto” in Valais ). From this millennial history, the hotel still keeps at least four distinct senses.
The first meaning is that of a large town house, a residence of a person of quality, of an eminent person or of a rich individual (Hôtel de Nesle, Hôtel Saint-Pol, Hôtel de Bourgogne or former residence in Paris of the dukes of Burgundy which served as theater and where were played most of the pieces of Corneille and Racine, Hotels of the Marais, Hotel Matignon, Hotel de Lassay, etc.).
The second meaning defines a vast building for a long time a hospital-lier establishment, the Hotel-Dieu (where Ordinary Hospital of the patients) that describes Voltaire in one of its multiple correspondences as a place where “reigns an eternal contagion, where sick, piled up one upon the other, give each other the plague and the death, “which can be found in all the towns of France. We can still visit today, as in Beaune in Côte d’Or. We find a medical or hygienist connotation in an expression still in vogue in the twentieth century, with the Hotel de cure, an establishment where patients with mild or progressive forms of pulmonary tuberculosis are staying. This concept of establishment becomes notoriously common as of the French Revolution, it characterizes a building hosting the seat of a public establishment (Hotel de la Monnaie, Police Hotel, Hotel Post Office, Auction House, City Hall, Hotel Invalides, etc.).
The third definition specifies an establishment which rents furnished rooms or apartments (facilities of a certain comfort), and which provides to the travelers, for payment, the lodging, the service and sometimes the food. This is the meaning we will keep in this work, defined in 1835 by the French Academy, which gives some examples (Hotel de Venise, Hotel d’Angleterre). We can also associate with other words, more or less rewarding (a three or four star hotel, a hotel restaurant, a hotel chain, a hotel pass, etc.). The hotel seems close to the meaning given to the inn (and the verb “auberger”), which seems to be first and foremost a small hotel in the countryside, in small towns or suburbs, where travelers can find accommodation and restore then become a hostel of (the) youth, a holiday home center for young people who do tourism.
The last sense qualifies the butler, formerly an officer in charge of looking at the table of a prince, a great lord, or wealthy individuals, and serving on the table. Today he is the one who runs the table service in a private house or a large restaurant.