Dinner or Supper? And Where Does Lunch Fit in This?
What’s the last meal you eat over the course of the day: dinner or supper? The answer likely depends on where you live, or at least on where you were raised.
Back in 2013, for an episode of a weekly feature I ran called the “Saturday Six,” I asked whether you call the last meal of the day dinner or supper. But also asked a second question about the word:
What do you usually call the meal you have in the middle of the day: lunch or dinner?
Yes, it seems the D-word floats around in various slots. Some who call the middle meal “lunch” refer to the final meal of the day as “dinner.” Those who call the middle meal “dinner” might call the evening meal “supper.”
And then, of course, there are those who forego “dinner” altogether in favor of lunch and supper.
I did a quick informal poll of some friends of mine and a few told me this whole “supper” business must be a Southern thing. But supper is far from an Old South creation.
According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, which traces the origin of words, supper came into our language in the mid-13th century from Old French’s soper, which meant the evening meal.
You shouldn’t need to be a historian to realize that the “South” didn’t quite exist in the mid-13th century.
And since about the year 1300, the last big meal Jesus Christ consumed with his disciples has been known as the “Last Supper.”
But back to that dictionary: it states that supper used to refer to the last of the three meals of the day. But it’s now used to mean the last substantial meal of the day (as opposed to a snack) when dinner, generally considered a big meal in its own right, happens earlier in the evening or around lunch time.
Supper is generally less formal than dinner.
For people who use the term supper, it’s the last meal of the day and the middle meal is either lunch or dinner.
For people who generally don’t use the term supper, the last meal of the day is dinner and the middle meal is lunch. But I’m not sure what these people do on Thanksgiving Day when the big “Thanksgiving dinner” is served at lunchtime. I suppose that depending on how big that meal is and how much people indulge, there may not even be another meal that evening.
Wait a second — what am I saying? Who’d skip a meal just because it’s Thanksgiving? Silly me!
For people who prefer lunch and dinner, supper can even be a lighter meal — a sandwich, for example — before bed. But you better consider your waistline if you’re eating that many meals!