Meals of the day : breakfast, lunch, dinner, supper

One of the things that I was confused by quite a few times is the naming and meaning of the meals of the food.  Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and supper.  Which one is which, where, and why.

I remember that I was explained what each one of them means back in high school.  It was difficult to map them over the meals that I was familiar with, so I never completely understood how these work out.

Today I finally got into a discussion which resulted with me reading Wikipedia for each one of those meals.  Here is how I understand them now:

  • Breakfast is the first meal of the day.
  • Lunch is the midday meal. This is the one you eat during lunch break – not in the morning and not in the evening.  For some people it might actually be the main meal of the day with a light supper to follow in the evening.
  • Dinner is the main meal of the day.  If you eat three times per day, then your dinner and supper are probably the same thing.  If you eat four times per day, then your dinner is probably before supper.
  • Supper is the last meal of the day.  In essence, you can have a supper after dinner, but you can’t have dinner after supper.

This can of course vary greatly from place to place and culture to culture, but at least I now have something peace of mind – a scheme to fit all those meals into.

6 thoughts on “Meals of the day : breakfast, lunch, dinner, supper”

  1. You are not quite correct. Supper can be eaten before dinner.

    Terminology of meals:

    Get me away from this hot darn oven! During the colonial days of US history, memoirs and letters mention only three meals daily-breakfast, tea and dinner. Apparently the urgency of making a farm produce in those days was so important, that work could only be stopped for two meals daily-breakfast & dinner, with a break in the afternoon for tea and a snack. Documents of the wealthy classes and European merchant classes mention supper as well, a meal taken before retiring, as dinner was usually eaten earlier than today–usually around 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon.

    During the mid 1800s, mention is made of up to five meals a day, particularly among the wealthier classes both North & South (but especially in the Northern states). These meals were Breakfast, Luncheon, Tea, Dinner and Supper. Both Dinner and Supper parties were mentioned in letters and memoirs.

    The dinner party was a more formal affair, that lasted for up to three hours (!), featuring many courses and agonizingly long conversations. It took up most of the late afternoon and evening. The supper party was usually given during a dance or entertainment, and consisted of a light meal late in the evening.

    But I digress, on to the “meat & potatoes” of our discussion:

    Working class folks contented themselves with three main meals a day. Breakfast, Supper & Dinner.

    Breakfast was always the morning meal.

    Dinner was the largest meal of the day and Supper was considered a lighter meal (usually cold meats or leftovers). But here comes the area where much confusion arises: Depending on the circumstance of the diners, Dinner was eaten as the mid-day meal OR as the evening meal. Supper & Dinner were interchangeable.

    Here is the qualifier:
    In households with a cook or servant, Dinner was usually the evening meal, and was enjoyed at the end of the day. The householders considered it the duty of the cook to keep the fires burning, the stove going, and to prepare three hot meals a day. Supper, the lighter meal, was usually eaten in the afternoon.

    In households where the wife cooked, Dinner was often eaten in the middle of the day, and Supper was the evening meal. The reason for this practice was practicality.

    It took alot of effort and skill to keep a fireplace or cook stove heated with a nice, even heat for cooking. The housewife got the stove going to prepare breakfast ,which was usually quite a substantial meal to keep the menfolk working all day. Since the stove was already hot, she began to cook dinner as soon as breakfast was done. (There were no instant foods, and preparation usually included hours of slow cooking). This allowed her to serve the big meal at mid-day, at which time she could let the stove go out,

  2. You´re right You’re right, although the explanation of older times, but, Davinci’s paint it’s called the Last supper no the bLast Dinner

  3. I had always known it to be breakfast was before chores and cows so around 4:30AM, Dinner or dinnertime was noon / mid-day and supper the main meal was 5:00PM. Lunch was a snack after the last milking of the cows around 10:00PM and it was breads, cookies, jams and leftovers from dinner & supper. Western Manitoba, Canada

  4. supper is always the last meal before bed, it’s supposed to be liquidy i.e. soup, warm milk, gruel etc, with bread/crackers

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