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The Screwy History Of The Waitier’s Corkscrew + French Vocabulary

By Annie André

(Boring Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. If you use them to buy something, I may earn a small commission (which helps me buy more croissants) at no additional cost to you. Merci for your support)


Do you know how to say corkscrew in French? Impress your wine drinking friends and French bistro waiters with your wine bottle opener knowledge and French vocabulary of a waiters corkscrew.

The French didn’t invent the corkscrew, (tire-bouchon) pronounced Teer-boo-shown. We can thank Samuel Henshall from England for that.

Back in 1795, Mr. Henshall patented the simple “twist and pull corkscrew.”  Since then, there have been countless innovations and variations on the modern-day corkscrew and wine bottle openers from prongs and wings to hinges and air pressure.

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Did you know You can buy a Laguiole corkscrew? But be careful not to buy a fake.

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Despite not being a French invention, the corkscrew is probably one of the most valuable, indispensable tools in the French kitchen, bistros and bars.

But perhaps the most famous wine bottle opener and the preferred corkscrew of servers, bartenders and sommeliers’ across the globe has got to be the wine key, also known as a waiters corkscrew, waiter’s friend and a few other names depending on who you talk to.

Carl Weinke invented and patented the first waiter's corkscrew, originally called a wine key

Invented in 1882 by German inventor Karl Wienke, the waiter’s corkscrew was initially known as a wine key for over a hundred years—named after the inventor.

When tavern owners wanted to order a new folding corkscrew, they simply asked their salesmen for “Wienke’s corkscrew.”  Unfortunately, most English speaking folks thought “Wienke” was pronounced  “WineKey” instead of how it’s supposed to be pronounced “Veenka.”  So instead of asking for “Veenka’s corkscrew,” they asked for “Wine Key’s corkscrew.”

As the Wine key became more and more popular in taverns and restaurants, and after the bottle cap was invented in 1892, a bottle cap remover was added to Weinke’s Wine key opener and it picked up a few other nicknames along the way such as waiter’s corkscrew and waiter’s friend for obvious reasons.

Anatomy of a waiter's corkscrew in English and French

Parts of a waiter’s corkscrew (in French)

In French, the waiter’s corkscrew is also known under several names, just as it is in English. Here are a few names it goes by, “couteau de sommelier” (sommelier knife), “tire-bouchon de sommelier” (sommelier corkscrew) and “limonadier” (lemonador?).

A sommelier is a wine steward: a waiter in a restaurant who’s in charge of wine and wine services.”

lemonador” obviously isn’t an English word. It’s the exact translation of the word limonadier. The wine key probably picked up this nickname when lemonade street vendors started using the wine key to open bottles of lemonade.

Learn the lingo

Whether you’re trying to expand your French vocabulary or just curious, here is all the bottle opener vocabulary you need to impress your wine drinking friends.

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  • Corkscrew = le tire-bouchon
  • Bottle opener = l’ouvre-bouteille
  • Waiter’s corkscrew = le couteau de sommelier, le limonadier, le tire-bouchon de sommelier
  • Boot lever = Le levier articulé
  • Bottle opener= Le décapsulateur
  • Foil cutter blade= La lame coupe capsule
  • Handle (of the corkscrew)= le manche
  • Corkscrew, worm = la mèche de tire bouchon

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  • Step one: Décapsuler la bouteille avec la lame coupe capsule.
    • Remove the foil from the bottle with the corkscrew blade
  • Step two: Visser la mèche dans le bouchon.
    • Screw the worm (corkscrew) into the cork.
  • Step three: Placez le levier articulé sur le goulot, faites ensuite levier pour sortir le bouchon.
    • Place the boot lever onto the lip of the bottle neck and pull out the cork.

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Go forth and open your wine bottles in style now.

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