Dinner vs Supper

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These two words can mean different things to different people depending on where/how you grew up and where you live. My hubby and I were having this discussion which prompted a Google search to see what other people said about it. Obviously this produced many results with a wide range of answers. But it seems the most common “difference” is still regional or generational. My mom and step dad always called the evening meal dinner. But my father calls it supper and the noonish meal is dinner. I was faced with this as an issue when he and I were talking about meeting one day. He said, “It will have to be sometime after dinner” and I thought “Ok, that will be sometime in the evening”. It was a miscommunication of course. I made plans for the afternoon expecting to meet him sometime that evening. He called me about 6 pm and asked me where I was. That was when we both realized we had different perspectives of what “dinner” meant. Fortunately he has a wonderful sense of humor and we chuckled about it and made plans for a different day. But now we always clarify with each other; what time, specifically, are you thinking about?

So when discussing a specific time of the day it is easy to understand when someone says they want to do something before or after “supper” or “lunch” but there always needs to be clarification when talking about “dinner” as a time of day.

According to Wikipedia: “Supper” is the name for the evening meal in some dialects of English. While often used interchangeably with Dinner today, supper was traditionally a separate meal. “Dinner” traditionally had been used to refer to the main and most formal meal of the day, which, from the Middle Ages until the 18th century, was most often the midday meal. When the evening meal became the main meal, it was referred to as “dinner”, and the lighter midday meal was called “Luncheon”. Which is where the word lunch came from for the midday meal. If you think about it, we always had Lunch at school and our parents gave us “lunch money” not “dinner money”. On the other hand we say Thanksgiving Dinner, Easter Dinner or Christmas Dinner no matter what time of the day we serve it. And this seems to be the case whether you live in Alabama or Los Angeles.

Since we have lived in several regions of the US, I thought about what people said in the different places we have resided. There was a mixture of opinions. My very dear friend who still lives in Michigan had an interesting point of view, he said “I use both but I grew up saying supper because my mom always said it. I think it has to do with the generation. But I usually call it dinner now. I don’t know why…”

My other close friend, who lives in Missouri, says “I always said supper as a kid, but then I quit as an adult until I started dating M who is a commercial farmer. He grew up on the farm and now I say supper all the time because of HIM!” So who knows the answer to why we use the word we use. Is it a conscious or subconscious decision?

We now live in East Texas, which is where my hubby grew up, and he calls it dinner. But most of my friends here call it supper which tells me it is more of a regional word. I have been calling it supper more lately and my hubby likes to tease me by saying he isn’t ready to eat supper, but call him when dinner is ready! Or he has fed the dogs dinner but he hasn’t given them supper today. HA HA! (they eat twice a day)

Another thought is: People do not usually call it “fine suppering” when talking about going out to a formal meal. It is called “fine dining” no matter what region you live in and it always refers to an evening meal. On the other hand, I have never heard of a “Dinner Club” only “Supper Clubs”. I’m sure there may be “dinner clubs” around, it is just not something you see in East Texas or Western Kentucky where I grew up. I think most of us can agree on what “breakfast” means but I’m not going to even discuss “brunch”! I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer, just a preference.

So there is a friendly debate of sorts. What do you call it? And does it really matter? I don’t care what you call it, just don’t call me late for it! LOL! Y’all have a good one now, hear?! 🙂

16 thoughts on “Dinner vs Supper

  1. I have always called the main meal of the day – Dinner, and if I eat a couple of hours before bed, that is supper. A fourth meal that usually consists of sandwiches or something. My nan, who was Scottish, always called the main meal supper, especially when it came to from the “chippie” (chip shop – big chunky fries as opposed to “crisps” which are your chips). It was always a “fish supper”

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    • My grandparents called the noon meal dinner and supper was at 4:30 or 5. If we got hungry later in the evening we got cool snacks like rootbeer floats or popcorn. The rest of my family calls the noon time meal lunch and evening meal dinner. Only my father says dinner as noon meal or time of day 🙂

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  2. It’s dinner to us, but many folks here in KS say supper. The only person I know who ever refers to lunch as dinner is my wife’s aunt, and I’m convinced she just does it to be difficult. Cool post.

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  3. Great post! I’ve never quite understood what supper is.I also grew up in East Texas and we always referred to our evening meal as dinner. We had breakfast, lunch and dinner. I’m not sure if I ever had supper.

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  4. Supper supper supper! Dinner is too formal a word for my taste, and I had no idea it could be used to refer to what we call lunch. And if supper and dinner were meant to be two separate evening meals, then Taco Bell would have never had to come up with “Fourth Meal” to describe the late night craving!

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