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Dinner is the name of the main meal of the day. Depending upon region and/or social class, it may be the second or third meal of the day. Originally, it referred to the first meal of the day, eaten about noon, and is still occasionally used in this fashion if it refers to a large or main meal.


Originally, "dinner" referred to the first meal of a two-meal day, a heavy meal occuring about noon, which broke the night's fast in the new day. The word is from the Old French (ca 1300) disner, meaning "breakfast," from the stem of Gallo-Romance desjunare "to break one's fast," from Latin. dis- "undo" + Late Latin jejunare "to fast," from Latin jejunus "fasting, hungry". . Eventually the term shifted to referring to the heavy main meal of the day, even if it had been preceded by a breakfast meal. The (lighter) meal following dinner has traditionally been referred to as supper.

In some usages, the term dinner to refer to the main meal, has continued to refer to the largest meal of the day, even when the largest meal is eaten at the end of the day, preceded by two other meals. In this terminology, the preceding meals are usually referred to as breakfast and lunch. However, even in systems in which dinner is the meal usually eaten at the end of the day, an individual dinner may still refer to a main or more sophisticated meal at any time in the day, such as a banquet, feast, or even a Sunday dinner.

Dinner courses

A simple dinner typically consists of meat, fish, poultry or other proteins, served with one or two vegetables and/or with a grain or cereal product - especially bread, but potatoes, rice and pasta are also common. Any or all of these components may be served with a hot or cold gravy or sauce.

More elaborate dinners have several courses, for example starting with an appetizer or soup, and ending with dessert or pudding.

Dinner, lunch, supper and tea

In general, people in rural parts of America, Canada, and other Anglophone countries eat breakfast, dinner and supper. Germans traditionally stick to the same pattern. In these cases, dinner typically happens between midday and early afternoon. But whether town or country, wherever the dominant industry of an area involves hard labor (e.g., farming, mining, timber trade), the midday meal is an important feature because it divides the day's labor in half and provides well-earned refreshment. The evening meal is smaller than the midday meal and is commonly called 'supper'. In Scotland and northern England, supper is almost invariably called 'tea' (specifically, "high tea" - which does not indicate high formality but indicates that some kind of meat, fish, etc., is being served).

People who live in cities and towns, and especially those who work in "white collar" positions, typically eat dinner in the evening. Their midday meal is called lunch (or luncheon) and is often a small and quick meal, although a business lunch can be large, heavy and protracted.

In the north of England the word dinner usually refers to the midday meal (though it may also be used interchangeably with "lunch"), and throughout the UK the term "dinner-ladies" traditionally refers to women who cook the mid-day meal, or supervise children at this time, in schools. The evening or after-work meal is referred to as tea. However, the upper and upper-middle classes nationwide invariably eat lunch at midday and dinner (or supper, if it is a small meal) in the evening (see U and non-U English).

On holidays, such as American and Canadian Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, New Year's Day, and occasionally on weekends, people who normally eat dinner in the evening will eat their special holiday dinner in the early afternoon.

European Mainland

In Spainmarker, Portugalmarker and Latinamerica, the midday meal is the main meal of the day. Therefore, the evening meal is typically served late, no earlier than 8 p.m. In most cases the evening meal is translated into English as "dinner" from the Spanish "cena", and "comida" or "almuerzo" is translated into "lunch", although this is the main meal of the day.In Portugal, the meals are divided into "pequeno-almoço", "lanche da manhã", "almoço", "lanche da tarde", "jantar" and "ceia", which refere to breakfast, brunch, lunch, tea, dinner and supper.

See also


  1. "When do we eat? A survey of meal times"
  2. etymology of "dinner" from Online Dictionary. Accessed Nov. 11, 2009.
  3. Etymology of "dine" from Online Dictionary. Accessed Nov. 11, 2009].

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