An entrée (French, literally meaning entry or entrance) is one of several savory courses in a Western-style formal meal service. Its traditional definition, still used in Europe and Australia, refers to a smaller course that precedes the main course; however, in North America, the disappearance in the early 20th century of a large communal main course such as a roast as a standard part of the meal has led to the term being used to describe the main course itself.
Today, what is called an entrée elsewhere is called the first course, appetizer, or starter. In Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, chapter 40, bills of fare for a grand dinner for eighteen, January 1887, follow two kinds of fish and two kinds of soup with four entrées: Ris de Veau, Poulet à la Marengo, Côtelettes de Porc and a Ragoût of Lobster. Guests were not expected to eat of each dish, of course, for the entrée was followed by a Second Course and a Third Course, of game and fruit.
In its use outside of North America, an entrée is more substantial than hors d'œuvres and better thought of as a half-sized version of a main course, and restaurant menus will sometimes offer the same dish in different-sized servings as both entrée and main course.
In traditional French haute cuisine, the entrée preceded a larger dish known as the relevé, which "replaces" or "relieves" it, an obsolescent term in modern cooking, but still used as late as 1921 in Escoffier's Le Guide Culinaire.