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occ's avatar

When did we start saying "breakfast, lunch, and dinner" instead of "breakfast, dinner, and supper"?

Asked by occ (4036points) November 15th, 2009

In old books, people often refer to the mid-day meal as dinner and the evening meal as supper. When did we switch over to start calling dinner lunch and supper dinner?

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34 Answers

trailsillustrated's avatar

when we moved to the usa

occ's avatar

It’s not an American/British distinction – I have read books written in the USA, from the 19th century, and everyone says dinner and supper.

trailsillustrated's avatar

think its an old fashioned thing

gailcalled's avatar

Traditionally, farming families had huge meals at noon in order to fuel the workers for the afternoon toil.

occ's avatar

So then does the word dinner just mean the largest meal? that doesn’t make much sense to me.

Foolaholic's avatar


I was also of the impression that it was traditionally British, and that we grew out of it.

MrItty's avatar

“dinner” just means “largest meal of the day”. Lunch means afternoon meal, Supper means evening meal. For those of us who have the largest meal in the evening, “dinner” = “supper”. For those (mostly in Europe, from what I understand) who have it in the afternoon, “dinner” = “lunch”

trailsillustrated's avatar

dinner is the large meal at noon. supper or ‘tea’ is the evening meal. still in use in rural areas. luncheon is a formal early afternoon gathering.

oratio's avatar

It is the same in Sweden. The dinner meal, “middag”, was moved to late afternoon in favor of lunch.

occ's avatar

do any of our U.S. flutherers still use “dinner” to mean mid-day meal? I was not aware that this was still in use in some areas of the U.S.

trailsillustrated's avatar

@occ I have never heard it over here to mean anything before 6.

MrItty's avatar

@occ I say “dinner” for mid-afternoon meals on the weekends, where I’m going out with friends and having a nice lazy day. Supper then is a small sandwich or something when I get home that evening.

knitfroggy's avatar

My grandparents say dinner for the noon meal. I used to get confused as a kid but am used to it now.

faye's avatar

Dinner is what you go out for, supper is just at home! i grew up on a farm and our noon meal was dinner, roasts, chicken etc. Canada.

janbb's avatar

I think it is something of a British/American distinction now, although as indicated above, in both countries various terms are used by various people. In much of America today, the only mid-day meal that would still be referred to by some as dinner is on Sunday, i.e., Sunday dinner, but that is fading from usage. We call them breakfast, lunch and supper in my family; my British husband calls them breakfast, lunch and dinner, but he had “Sunday dinner” and “school dinners” growing up. At his house, a light meal of sandwiches was sometimes served on holidays and that was called “supper.” An evening meal after Sunday dinner was often called “tea” and might consist of salad and cold meat or beans on toast.

janbb's avatar

Also, there are a lot of class and regional issues in Britain that affect what people call their meals. I’m sure this is somewhat true in the U.S. too, but I’m more aware of the British ones.

Alek2407's avatar

Dinner is the largest meal by default, whether at mid day or evening. Here is an explanation of both followed by my experiences in daily life (in the USA) and Europe.

Breakfast dinner supper was/is used by people with a ‘rural’ lifestyle. You get up at sunrise (6 o’clock) work for about 6 hours, eat a big meal around noon (dinner) work till the evening (6 o’clock) eat a small meal (supper) and got to sleep in an hour or two.

Breakfast lunch dinner is used by people with 8 to 5 jobs: get up around 7 eat a small meal, got to work. By 1–2 take a half hour break and eat a medium meal (lunch) and get home at about 6–7 after running errands and eat a dinner.

I personal eat breakfast lunch dinner and supper but my breakfast and supper are very very small (less than 300c) i eat at 6:30 breakfast, 12:00 lunch 4:00 dinner 8:00 supper

when i visit family in Poland (Europe) they use a 7:00 breakfast, 1:00 dinner and 6:00 supper.

wilma's avatar

I live in a very rural farming area. When I was young it was always breakfast. dinner then supper. As we went to school and jobs, other people often called it breakfast lunch and dinner, so we picked up on that.
For me now, it follows the same as many of you above. The noon meal if it is large or a Holiday is called dinner. The evening meal is still usually called supper, but sometimes dinner.

jeffgoldblumsprivatefacilities's avatar

Only old people say supper. Get with the times!

MacBean's avatar

By definition, dinner is the largest meal of the day and supper is the last meal of the day. But (in the US, at least) most people don’t know that and use the terms interchangeably. I think there’s also a regional aspect to it.

Mat74UK's avatar

I’m a northern Brit and we say Breakfast Dinner Tea (evening meal) then Supper (snack before Bed)!

wilma's avatar

Yes, @MacBean I agree.
and I’m kinda old too.

Psychedelic_Zebra's avatar

It’s breakfast, lunch and supper around here, but this is the Midwest, you know, the place where the people live that grow the food that you eat. =)

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

It’s easier to say that with your mouth full. Go ahead,try it ;)

Strauss's avatar

I remember using dinner for lunch when I was young.

Mat74UK's avatar


DarkScribe's avatar

Breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, supper.

MacBean's avatar

Breakfast, second breakfast, elevenses, luncheon, afternoon tea, dinner, supper…?

janbb's avatar

@MacBean Gotta love them Hobbits.

zen_'s avatar

Breakfast, lunch and supper or dinner is how I say it.

VS's avatar

Here is South Carolina, it has always been ‘breakfast lunch and dinner’. Lunch is usually a lighter meal and dinner, the heavier evening meal.

AshlynM's avatar

I think supper sounds old fashioned.

I think older people may tend to say supper more so than the younger people.

Dinner sounds more formal, whereas supper sounds like a gathering of sorts.

Here is some interesting reading material.

rdatchison's avatar

I have always said breakfast dinner and supper. I don’t know where lunch came from.

sahID's avatar

I suspect that it is at once a regional, a generational and a social class distinction. In southern Idaho, there has never been a set rule about whether it is breakfast/lunch/dinner or breakfast/lunch/supper. Everybody just calls it whatever they feel like.

I do see a social class element to it as well. The upper crust “dine”, therefore they have dinner in the evening whereas everybody else simply eats in informal settings, so they have supper.

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