MUNDANE MYSTERIES: “Dinner” Or “Supper”…Which Is Right?

The difference between Dinner & Supper isn’t just a regional thing or a matter of dialect, they really do mean different things.

Well, at least they used to.

Regardless of whether it was eaten in the morning, afternoon, or evening, dinner has historically meant “the largest meal of the day”. The word “dinner” comes from the non-Classical Latin word disjējūnāre, which is defined as breaking a fast.

Supper, however, is more time-specific. Stemming from the Old French word souper, it means an evening meal that’s generally lighter than other meals served throughout the day. So basically, supper & dinner have more to do with the quantity of food served than the time of day that you eat them.

In the 1800s, some rural Americans began calling their midday meal dinner, leaving supper for the evening meal. That was related more to occupations than locations, however. In parts of the Midwest & South, where farmers needed plenty of fuel to get them through the day, the midday meal was bigger (thus, “dinner”). While, in the evening, supper would typically consist of a light soup, which they referred to as “supping”. (In fact, the word supper is related to “suppe”, the German word for soup). This is still the norm in some parts of America, as “supper” is most commonly used for the evening meal in Wisconsin, South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, and Iowa, as well as in large parts of the South.

However, outside of those areas, “supper” isn’t really used much anymore, especially among younger generations, as dinner is, by far & away, the more popular term nationwide. Whatever the case, you’re probably thinking about eating your nightly meal right now, and couldn’t care less what it’s called…you just want it in your belly!

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