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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.


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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  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” ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Many years ago I grew up on a farm in rural Missouri. Breakfast was breakfast, lunch was dinner, and dinner was supper. A lunch was considered a light meal. We had three big meals a day and you worked all those calories off. I was as skinny as a rail back then.

    As more households got TV sets people changed. Dinner is now lunch. Supper is now dinner. I changed a little. My noon meal is now called lunch. I still use the term supper for the evening meal in spite of the fact that my son fusses at me for doing so.

  4. 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.

  5. 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. ๐Ÿ˜€

    • You have anger issues. I say supper simply because that is what I was brought using, no other reason.

    • Agreed, people generally are super or dinner people referring to the evening meal. Literally no one uses both depending on the day. The use is mostly regional with rural southerners and midwestern people opting for supper and most everyone else using dinner.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. Being from the South (Tennessee), we always called the last meal of the day supper in our family. I also remember hearing it as either breakfast, dinner and supper, or breakfast, lunch and supper by other people, though some did say dinner for supper (at least after many people started moving here from other States about 20 years ago). In school it was always lunch for the midday meal, and I wonder if that didn’t change things over time — like they’ve changed so many other things in our local/State or regional dialects across the country? Thanks for the article.

  11. I’m from Maine USA and we say supper for our evening meal instead of dinner most of the time because we have lunch but we also sometimes say dinner instead of supper.
    My boyfriend is from California and he hates when I call it supper lol.

  12. The writer of this article must not have researched beyond his or her state line. While it is true the larger meal would be called dinner, and the smaller would be called supper, where they would be placed within a 24 hour period might differ even in the United States.
    The statement:
    “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.”
    In the South, (still in the United States lol), most folks were farmers who worked from sunup to sundown. The noon meal was called dinner because it was in fact dinner, the largest meal of the day. While my family were educators and not farmers we lived within the Southern culture and our meals were Breakfast (to break the fast), Dinner, and Supper.
    I hope this helps clear up any confusion on this subject.

  13. On the farm it is breakfast, dinner, and supper. Lunch is that snack you have in mid-morning and mid-afternoon. Silly city slickers!

  14. I lived in both NY and the south – South Carolina as a child as both sides of my family lived there. My Charlestonian grandmother whose mother was from England, spoke as thus:

    1. Breakfast – Brehkfast
    2. Dinner – Dinnah
    3. Supper – Suppah

    As children our breakfast was always buttered toast, poached egg or soft boiled eggs, oatmeal and hot tea.

    At dinner (lunch) during the week, we’d usually eat toasted tuna sandwiches, soup, salad with cucumbers, perhaps some kind of broiled fish, except on Sundays where the dinner would be the huge meal that consisted of pork chops, chicken, meatloaf, potatoes, salad, vegetables, rolls, or spaghetti with meatsauce
    and salad.
    Supper during the week, would match Sundays dinner and be heavier, and eaten between 5:30 and 6:30.
    If there were guests over during the week the dinner (lunch) would naturally be heavier.
    At times, there would be great seafood meals; steamed clams, shrimp, crab, corn on the cob, or southern comfort foods like sweet potato, baked macaroni and cheese, collard greens.
    Tea with milk and sugar was a constant and served all day long.
    Sweet tea mostly without lemon was always in the fridge.

    When I lived in NY, we ate a combination of my mother’s southern food as well as seafood, but also a large amount of Italian cooking was done as she learned it from her sister in laws. I think I really benefited food-wise living on the East coast and in these two states. The food around the table was always amazing, well, except things like Okra (shudders) in the South, at my grandmother’s table, of which I skipped.

    Don’t even get me started on the desserts we ate….

    • Yes from Namibia… We call it a dinner as is before 18 hours and supper after 18 hours of a day…. So , the definition f dinner and supper on the coach goes right to how we do it right here…..

  15. Supper is more of an informal meal for the family. Dinner is a more formal meal where other people have been invited or a special meal like Thanksgiving Dinner. I also believe supper is earlier than dinner. Exceptions being a special dinner which can be held at any time of day. We often had Thanksgiving Diner at 2 in the afternoon but going out to dinner was usually in the evening. Thatโ€™s my opinion.

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