“Lunch” vs. “dinner” vs. “supper” – times and meanings?

Perhaps you’ve become accustomed to using certain language to describe meals. However, if you were to speak to someone from a different region, your words may not translate the same. One example of this is the difference in mealtimes – for example, “lunch”, “dinner”, and “supper”. Maybe some you have heard interchangeably, but what do these words really mean and how should they really be used?

The word “lunch” generally refers to a midday meal. This meal, in many cultures, is considered the largest. In the event of a “lunch”, however, it is not. A “lunch” is a lighter and less formal version of what might be considered a classic, larger midday meal; therefore its use depends on context.

The word “dinner” is intended to describe the main meal of the day, so likely the largest. Whether a meal at midday is larger than a meal in the evening may be entirely a cultural thing. In some American communities, “dinner” may fall at lunch to sustain farmers in the field. However, in some 3rd world countries, midday meals may not exist at all and therefore would not be considered, by definition, “dinner”.

The word “supper” comes from the verb “to sup”, having a lot to do with snacking on a smaller meal at the end of the day and before the evening’s start. This distinction is key to separate the evening meal from the midday “dinner” that occurs several hours before.


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