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The earliest known uses of 'vegetable diet' ; 'vegetarian' and 'vegan'
Compiled by John Davis, IVU Manager and Historian, with help from members of the ivu-history email group

Appendix 1 to early uses of 'vegetarian'

The number of volumes containing 'vegetable diet' ; 'vegetarian' and 'vegan' (title only) in Google Books, by year of publication ( 'vegetable diet' has been individually checked to 1733, and 'vegetarian' to 1847 and 'vegan' to 1951 - otherwise all figures may include some transcription errors, and other garbage).

'Vegan' is only counted where it is in the title as the text too often refers to people from Las Vegan or the planet Vega etc etc.

It is worth noting that the longer phrase 'milk and vegetable diet' became noticeably more frequent in the USA, before 1850, than in Britain where it was more often just 'vegetable diet'. In general the Americans were being more accurate about what was actually being consumed.

  Vegetable Diet Vegetarian Vegan
1725 1    
1731 3    
1732 3    
1733 2    
1734 2    
1735 1    
1736 1    
1737 1    
1738 3    
1739 3    
1740 6    
1750 2    
1760 4    
1770 7    
1775 18    
1780 24    
1790 34    
1800 36    
1810 121    
1820 76    
1830 171    
1840 265    
1841 232    
1842 266 1 vegetarian begins
1843 288 1  
1844 412 0  
1845 509 2  
1846 348 3  
1847 367 4  
1848 331 77  
1849 462 67  
1850 653 184  
1851 440 225  
1852 422 294  
1853 474 165  
1854 1,050 349  
1855 973 142  
1856 555 280  
1857 514 208  
1860 575 408  
1870 387 171  
1880 519 404  
1890 552 867 vegetarian overtakes
1900 743 1,870  
1910 604 1,950  
1920 445 1,400 all declining inter-war
1930 229 1,250  
1940 162 985  
Below here the numbers relate only to the use of the words in the titles
(with total within all texts in brackets, may include other uses of 'vegan')
- those with a dash have not been checked -
1946 0
(178)
1
(1,350)
1 - vegan begins
(2)
1950 0
(199)
0
(1,700)
0
(1)
1951 0
(176)
5
(1,760)
1
(6)
1960 0
(173)
3
(2,750)
0
(5)
1970 0
(351)
9
(3,930)
0
-
1971 0
(279)
160
(4,440)
0
-
1972 1
(404)
342
(5,700)
1
_
1973 0
(249)
91
(4,650)
0
-
1974 - - 1
1975 - - 0
1976 - 277
(5,880)
0
-
1977 - - 1
1978 - - 2
1979 - - 1
1980 0
(289)
274
(7,110)
2
-
1981 - - 3
1982 - - 4
1983 - - 1
1984 - - 0
1985 -
-
785
(9,380)
6
(650)
1986 - - 7
1987 - - 6
1988 - - 3
1989 - - 1
1990 0
(187)
1,060
(13,000)
2
(837)
1991 - - 4
1992 - 801
(15,300)
5
(872)
1993 - - 6
1994 - - 6
1995 -
-
1,500
(16,700)
10
(1,860)
1996 - 2,540 102 - vegan expands
1997

-
-

2,710
(23,500)
201
(2,130)
1998 -
-
1,720
(24,800)
85
(2,090)
1999 -
-
2,110
(21,400)
117
(2,910)
2000 -
(310)
3,960
(32,600)
1,060
(5,780)
2001 -
-
2,350
(30,400)
486
(4,460)
2002 -
-
3,440
(35,700)
293
(4,930)
2003 -
-
2,820
(39,900)
1,380
(8,660)
2004 -
-
5,000
(42,100)
288
(7,480)
2005 -
(401)
1,540
(35,600)
751
(9,200)
2006 - 1,630
(38,700)
483
(7,520)
2007 - 2,520
(38,400)
725
(7,920)
2008 - 1,390
(34,400)
1,220
(7,880)
2009 5 (all reprints)
-
1,980
(30,000)
3,070 - vegan overtakes
(9,100)
For comparison with the above printed material:
- web pages uploaded between July 2009 and July 2010
- in title (anywhere on page) :
2009/10 487
(232,000)
2,260,000
(270,000,000)
1,960,000
(126,000,000)

The first known volumes using 'vegetable diet' :

1725: An Essay of health and long life (sixth edition) By George Cheyne (1671-1743), London 1725 (An Essay of health and long life - Page 184 - full view) [note: the 1st edition appears to have been 1724, see An Essay - link to archive.org - but whilst this makes many references to 'vegetable' and 'diet', it does not appear to be combined into the phrase 'vegetable diet' until the 6th edition.]

We can find no further use of the phrase until:

1731: An essay concerning the nature of aliments, and the choice of them, according to the different constitutions of human bodies: in which the different effects, advantages and disadvantages of animal and vegetable diet are explain'd, by John Arbuthnot Printed for J. Tonson in the Strand, 1731, 232 pages (An essay concerning the nature of aliments, and the choice of ... - no preview. Reprinted in 1732, still no preview. It might be included in a later compilation from 1770)

- both of the other books from 1731, presumably later in the year, refer to the above and quote from it, also confirming the date (The Present state of the republick of letters - Page 393 - and - : Historia litteraria: or, An exact and early account of the most ... - Page 379 , both full view)

We have so far found no earlier use of the phrase.

The word 'vegan' was invented in November 1944, and the first known book to use it was Vegan Recipes, 1946, by Fay K. Henderson

Return to main Article on early uses of 'vegetarian'