‘flexitarian’: meaning and origin

A blend of the adjective flexible and of the adjective/noun vegetarian, flexitarian:
– (as an adjective) means: primarily but not strictly vegetarian;
– (as a noun) denotes a person who follows a primarily but not strictly vegetarian diet.

The word flexitarian is of American-English origin. These are, in chronological order, the earliest occurrences of this word that I have found:

1-: The context does not permit to determine the precise acceptation of the adjective flexitarian in the following from the description of the classes offered by the Northwest Freedom University (NFU) in the autumn of 1981, published in The Bellingham Herald (Bellingham, Washington, USA) of Sunday 6th September 1981:

Breadmaking, I.F., $5
Sun. 10/18, Noon-6pm, Sheena Gargett
Flexitarian Cooking, I.F., $5, M.F., $2.50 per week
Tues. 10/6-11/24, 7-9pm, Karina Davidson
Creative Cooking & Well Being, I.F., $8, M.F., $7
Sat. 11/14 & 11/21, 10am-5pm, Arielle Verweij-Lichtweld

2-: The adjective flexitarian does seem to mean primarily but not strictly vegetarian in the following from the Austin American-Statesman (Austin, Texas, USA) of Saturday 17th October 1992:

Acorn serves up ‘flexitarian fare’
Diversified menu goes easy on budget
By Linda Anthony
Special to the American-Statesman

The recently opened Acorn Cafe offers diners an oasis of calm, an eclectic menu and a respite for their wallets.
The quiet cafe, tucked behind a 7-Eleven at 26th and Guadalupe streets, features what chef-owner Helga Morath calls “flexitarian fare.” That’s her way of describing health/vegetarian food prepared with a Continental cast. The results are surprisingly savory, yet some of the dishes can be extremely filling, particularly for those unaccustomed to so much fiber. Although the majority of the menu is vegetarian, meat eaters are not ignored. All salads are available with grilled chicken, and homemade pate and several German sausages are also served. The menu is not as extensive as that of some vegetarian restaurants, but the portions are plentiful and the prices are modest. The most expensive item is $6.95 and most dishes cost $5.

3-: From the title of an article by Sheryl Julian, published in The Boston Globe (Boston, Massachusetts, USA) of Wednesday 28th February 1996:

Flexitarians: For the sake of heart, conscience and waistline,  the ranks of part-time vegetarians are growing rapidly

4-: From the review by John Kessler of Everything You Pretend to Know About Food and Are Afraid Someone Will Ask, a book by Nancy Rommelmann—review published in The Atlanta Constitution (Atlanta, Georgia, USA) of Friday 31st July 1998:

TREND WATCH: “Everything You Pretend to Know About Food . . .” may put you in the know about the up-and-coming trends identified by the Food Channel, among them shiso (the peppery leaf used in Japanese sashimi platters), herbes de Provence (a blend of dried thyme, basil, savory, fennel and lavender) and gourmet rice varieties.
Artichokes, ponzu (citrus/soy sauce) and chai are peaking, and if you’re still into sun-dried tomatoes, flavored pasta and biscotti, you’re behind the times. The icky neologism touted by the Food Channel is “flexitarian,” which is a meat-eating semi-vegetarian who determines his/her eating preference based on mood rather than ideology.
If you want the full list, consult www.foodchannel.com.

5-: From the Times Colonist (Victoria, British Columbia, Canada) of Wednesday 26th August 1998:

What’s hot and not among trendsetters in the food world
Chicago (CP)—What’s new in the food world? Whether dining out or shopping in specialty markets, here are some buzzwords and catchphrases from Hot-Bytes, the newsletter published by The Food Channel.
Flexitarians: Meat-eating semi-vegetarians who determine eating preference based on mood, rather than health, lifestyle or philosophical reasons.

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