engage a dinner

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I read this expression from John Adams by David McCullough,

"I quitted my own carriage, and took my seat by his side[she wrote]. We rode on to Bristol, where I had previously engaged a dinner, and there upon the banks of the Delaware, we spent the day, getting into the city at sunset."

This snippet is from Abigail's dairy, documenting her meet with her husband outside Philadelphia. According to Merriam-Webster, "engage" when used as a transitive verb mostly means "attract, hold or hire". It seems I cannot find any fitting definition in this context.
  • se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Yes, booked. From the OED:

    5. (With etymological sense of securing by payment of earnest-money ...)

    a. To hire, secure the services of (a servant, workman, agent, etc.). Also refl. of a servant, etc.: To enter into an agreement for service
    b. To bespeak or secure (something) for one's own or another's use or possession.

    1760 G. Washington Diary 7 Jan. (1925) I. 109 Accompanied Mrs. Bassett to Alexandria and engaged a Keg of Butter of Mr. Kirkpatrick, being quite out of that article.
    1770 Maryland Hist. Mag. 12 358 Pray write to Coolidge and send an Express to him to Engage the Corn and to send it up as soon as possible.
    1797 R. Southey Lett. from Spain ii. 9 The boxes [in the theatre] are engaged by the season.
    1841 H. H. Wilson Trav. Moorcroft & Trebeck I. 199 I laid in a considerable quantity of wheat flour at Tandí, and engaged carriers and ponies for its transport.
    1891 N.E.D. at Engage Mod. I have engaged rooms at the hotel. This seat is engaged. Engage places for us in the coach.

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    Senior Member
    English - England
    Come to think of it, it's not uncommon for people to talk about "a dinner engagement", or to say "I can't come. I have a previous engagement." I expect that comes from the same archaic usage.
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