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Difference Between Supper and Dinner

food-broth-pdSupper vs Dinner

In reality, the difference between supper and dinner is not just cultural, but also a personal definition. Throughout the world, dinner is considered an early meal that is eaten somewhere between 2 pm and 5 pm, while supper is a later meal eaten between 7 pm and 11 pm. This doesn’t hold true for all cultures or countries, but it is a relatively safe bet when trying to determine the difference.

In the United States, we refer to dinner as an evening meal eaten earlier, while we refer to supper as the same meal eaten later in the evening. However, in Australia, dinner would be referred to as the main evening meal, and supper would be snacks and food eaten later in the evening; which the US citizens would call a late night snack.

In Israel, school children are sent to school with two meals. Around 10 am they engage in lunch, and then around 1 or 2 pm (depending on the school) they have dinner. In the US, we would simply call this two lunches, or two snack periods.

Dinner is a primary meal eaten before supper. Supper is a primary meal eaten after dinner. Lunch can replace dinner for many, however, we have to remember that not all cultures operate on a three meal per day schedule.

Looking at the root word of each meal, you can infer a greater understanding. To sup is to eat a light meal. This could mean that we sup a light breakfast, or we sup a light evening snack before bed. To dine is to eat a heavier, primary meal of the day. Thus, if we are eating a heavy meal in the middle of the day, we can technically call it dinner. If our primary meal doesn’t happen until the evening, we can call this dinner.

Summary:

1. Dinner is eaten earlier.

2. Supper is eaten later.

3. Dinner is implied by country, culture, and eating habits of the area.

4. Supper is often referred to as a meal eaten after dark.

5. Worldwide, in some countries, people eat numerous times per day, and eat dinner before supper as their second ‘lunch’.

6. When you dine, you eat a heavier primary meal.

7. When you sup, you eat a lighter meal that is not intended to be your primary meal.

8. Everything from culture to region to personal interpretation defines how we refer to meals.


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9 Comments

  1. I agree! Here in Poland they have an earlier meal which is called “obiad” and translates as “dinner” and people usually eat around 5-7pm. Later on there’s another meal called “kolacja” which means “supper” and is a late night snack, much lighter than the former. They never use the word “lunch” in Polish. Eating habits are changing, though, and it’s possible to see people eating a real meal, therefore, lunch, around 12 or 1pm. I come from Brazil where lunch is the main meal of the day and a light snack takes place in the PM and dinner late in the evening (sort of a 2nd heavy meal!). In FL people say lunch and dinner, but in parts of Georgia, they might say dinner and supper!!! Great article. Thank you.

  2. I concur too. It really depends on your social class and your country. To me, dinner is an evening meal and supper is eaten at night-time. In Ireland, the *tea* is another word for dinner (=evening meal). Actually, the origin of “supper” is french => “souper”, well it has something to do with soup. Maybe you know the song by Cathy Davey: “Sing for your supper” :-)

  3. To me, supper is the last meal of the day eaten at home. Dinner is the last meal of the day eaten at a resturant.

  4. I think most people choose one or the other. Supper people say “supper” for the evening meal, while dinner people call the evening meal “dinner”. I find it hard to believe that anyone is consciously making their use of the language with regards to the time of day, or the size of the meal.
    I don’t like people calling it supper. It makes me angry for some reason. :D

  5. In the UK, dinner and supper are interchangeable and refer to the last meal of the day. Lunch is eaten i nthe middle of the day.
    I agree that the interpretation of supper and dinner varies according to country etc.

    Funny, I also agree that the word ‘supper’ sounds a little annoying.

  6. In England, dinner is at 1:00 pm, tea at 4:00 pm and supper at 7:00 pm. We lived in Kent at the time. Class system in the UK still dictates how a meal is called. For instance, the upper classes have kitchen supper, country supper or dinner.

  7. If you are eating at home called Supper, if you are invited in a banquet or any wedding or any party and food serve over there called Dinner.

  8. I am a pure bred Virginian of the former FFV class. I live near Colonial Williamsburg and frequent that city often. When eating in the colonial Taverns, the evening meal is referred to as Supper as it was in the 18th century and earlier periods. I don’t think the distinction came into play of having dinner or being invited to dine until the more affluent aspects of society in America in the late 18th century and generally it was an engineered event crafted by the leaders of society.
    I was reared to have a three meal a day regimen of a breakfast largely made up of reheated leftovers from the previous evening supper and supplemented with fresh Eggs and Bread but utilizing the meats from the previous evening. It was not uncommon to have fried or otherwise prepared Chicken for breakfast in our house. Lunch was the big meal of the day as the children would run off the calories playing hard and the adults would be working hard and thus need many calories in the afternoon. Supper at our house could be between 4 and 7 PM. It was usually a lighter meal and even though we were not of the Catholic faith, fresh caught fish was the main course every friday supper meal.
    This usually meant that Saturday’s breakfast would be hearty but mostly made from scratch and was usually heavy on the grain items with heavy syrups, pork products, strong coffee and freshly squeezed juices.
    The idea of southern breakfast foods being grits and other such cliches, generally stems from the aftermath of the War of Northern Aggression. Southerners who could afford slaves and treated them well usually had those freedmen stay on and it was the former slave diet that is responsible for so much of the assumed southern diet. The genteel southern wives usually could not cook and the plantation had a cook who cooked for everyone. One diet for the slaves, a poor one, and the more robust foods for the white folk. After the war, Most livestock and produce items had been stolen, destroyed of picked clean by the invading Union and some renegade Confederate soldiers trying to supplement their own meager diets. But the point being that the nature of how people in the south labeled their meals did change with hard times and prosperity and the society. Before the War, all people in the south ate breakfast, lunch and supper. As some aspect of prosperity returned to the south in the 1920s, the female leaders of society aped the British habit of breakfast, lunch, a tea at 4pm and dinner between 7PM and 11PM. Pre – theatre dinners and late after theatre dinners became very popular. the dinner hour was generally set for 8PM with pre dinner drinks at 7PM.
    I was reared on Breakfast, Lunch and Supper but as I achieved in my profession and began to move among the affected rich; My diet changed to having a hearty breakfast, light lunch, a mid afternoon, supper in the form of tea cakes, basically a snack, and the more formal later evening meal, Dinner.

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