A salle à manger, the room in which meals are taken, a
dining-room; also a store-room or pantry. (Dispensorium, Old
French dispense, a buttery.)
“The rest of the family held counsel in the spence.” —Sir W. Scott: The Monastery, chap. xxx.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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