1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: Welsh
  4. >
  5. "What did you have for dinner…

"What did you have for dinner?"

Translation:Beth gest ti i ginio?

February 4, 2016



Dinner in the United States is synonymous with supper, not with lunch.

  • 2139

This may be a little more complex than you might ever imagine! Dinner in the UK can refer to either supper/evening meal or a lunchtime meal depending upon family tradition/convention/region and a number of other factors.

Very generally speaking, more traditionally working-class families tend(ed) to refer to lunch as dinner and would traditionally have four meals a day: breakfast, dinner (lunch), tea(-time), and supper. Tea(-time) and Supper usually being light meals. Some would have a lighter meal at lunchtime and a larger meal at tea-time and then a lighter meal for supper. In both cases, often, breakfast would be a substantial meal; bacon and eggs or full cooked breakfast, and/or especially in Scotland, porridge or oak cakes. In Scotland porridge was traditionally made with salt and not sugar, incidentally. In Wales they might have had Laverbread for breakfast. This is not an exhaustive list by any means and there are lots of regional variations that have tended to change with generation and what they were able to afford or had available.

Generally, Middle-class families might have had: breakfast, lunch and dinner - sometimes with an afternoon tea. In this case dinner would be the evening meal and the main meal of the day.

Again, very generally speaking, Wales with its heavy industry, mining, agriculture and fishing, had a predominately working-class tradition. Therefore they are/were most likely to call the lunchtime meal dinner. Also if you would be spending a day performing hard labour, down a mine, on a farm, or half-way up a mountain in a quarry or tending livestock in freezing weather, a substantial meal for breakfast was pretty-much essential for survival!

With working patterns changing and the decline of heavy industry and workplace canteens/restaurants/catering in office work, there has been an increasingly move to making the evening meal the main meal of the day. With heavy industry, mealtimes might vary from week to week with shiftwork, or more likely the family would have their meals at set times with the workers having separate meals, out of sync from the rest of the family.

All this is entirely variable and depends upon region of the country, original upbringing, the type of occupation, day of the week and whatever group one might be amongst at any particular time - or just whim.

Nevertheless, 'going out for dinner' will generally refer to eating at a restaurant or with friends, in the evening, regardless of background or how they might otherwise refer to it.

I should point out that this can cause confusion even amongst us Brits. Even neighbouring families in the street I grew up in had different preferences on their terminology! To avoid any confusion, using the terms 'lunch' (or lunchtime) or 'midday meal' and 'evening meal' are generally unambiguous.


All true, but dinner in the United States is synonymous with supper, not with lunch. If anyone asked me what cinio meant, I would say lunch, not dinner.

  • 2139

That's fine; but Wales is part of the UK, not the US. :-)

If we were learning a language spoken in, say Wyoming, then it might be reasonable to expect the only correct usage of 'dinner' to be the American one in that case. Surely, you would not then expect us to complain that since we (a significant number at least) use it to mean lunch, you should change your course so that it complies with our usage.

As it is, the course accepts either in most cases, so far as I am aware. You just need to be aware that on occasions, the rest of the world may use words and see things differently from the United States and make some allowances. :-) What is the point of learning another language if you are unwilling to accept different cultures?

Just to make things more confusing, according to GPC (http://geiriadur.ac.uk/gpc/gpc.htm) cinio can/could also mean breakfast!

If I read it correctly, I may be wrong, it appears that without any form of qualification cinio refers to what you would call lunch. The one exception being 'cinio chwarel: dinner eaten at the end of day’s work in quarrying districts (lit. quarry dinner).'

Perhaps I could have summed up my previous post more succinctly by saying that in the UK people traditionally referred to their most substantial meal of the day as 'dinner', no matter what time of day that might have taken place.

As an after-thought, I checked the OED (Oxford English Dictionary). It states: 'Dinner: the main meal of the day, taken either around midday or in the evening'. It provides no indication that international usage varies. Therefore, it would appear that at least some people in the United States may also refer to their lunchtime meal as 'dinner'! :-)

  • 2139

Before anyone else says... Yes, I made rather a meal of that! :-)

  • 2139

Just for completeness, I checked some American dictionaries. They all agree with the OED definition that dinner is simply the main meal of the day, whether around noon or in the evening. So it would appear not everyone in the United States happens to agree with you.


It doesn't matter. Cinio is lunch or dinner; swper is supper. Words in other languages don't always (and should not be expected to) map directly onto your own language or dialect.

If you must distinguish between lunch and dinner try saying cinio prynhawn (lunch) and cinio noswaith (dinner) or do it by size: cinio bach and cinio mawr.


Words in other languages indeed do not always map directly onto another language, which is why one cannot simply look to the word, but rather to the usage. As I say, in American English, dinner and supper are synonyms for the evening meal. Consequently, if I were simply to say that cinio is dinner and swper is supper, than they would be synonyms to anyone I speak to (I do not have a great many occasions to speak to Britons). Lunch in American English may very well be large or small, as may dinner, but lunch occurs in the middle of the work day, while dinner occurs after work. So, if Welsh has a word for a meal that occurs in the middle of the day, then in American English (the only language I speak, and thus the language that I would translate any other language into), that word means lunch. If Welsh has a word for a meal that occurs at the end of the work day, that word means dinner or supper in American English. In translating into a target language, one must take into account not only the meaning of the words in the language being translated, but also the meaning of the words in the target language.

  • 2139

Sorry. I was answering generally and had lost sight of the actual question.

You may have a point. They would have done better to be unambiguous and either avoid 'dinner' and put 'lunch' or 'evening meal' - or a question with 'dinner' should accept the Welsh for 'lunch' or 'evening meal' as a valid answer. I was assuming they would do just that since the hint for 'ginio' gives 'lunch' and 'dinner' as valid answers.

Were you saying this specific question rejected 'swper'? If so, you should report that since it should obviously be valid.


That was my point. I reported it, but sometimes when it is a cultural matter, often a difference between UK and US English, I will point it out in the comments to. It is less important on the Irish and Welsh boards, since the people who speak those languages are not learning English as well, I suppose.

I do have rather a different philosophy regarding translating Welsh into English, though, and similarly Irish into English, a discussion I have had on those boards. When I learn Welsh, I assume I am translating it into English in my own mind or translating it for one of my acquaintances, most of whom speak American English. I would no more think of translating Welsh into the English spoken by a Welshman than I would think of translating Hungarian into the English spoken by a Hungarian who has learned English.

Regarding dinner, the principal meal in American English, the only Americans who might be eating the principal meal in the middle of the day are farmers, who have been a minority of the population since the early twentieth century and now compose quite a miniscule share, as they do in most of the wealthier countries of the world. My grandfather, who was born in Nebraska in 1892, would sometimes use the term dinner when he meant the meal in the middle of the day, but even he explained it as merely a memory of his childhood.

  • 2139

I see your point; but I think you overlook some important differences. In the case of an Hungarian, English wouldn't be their native language or culture. There are a very small number of Welsh residents who speak no English, and that would most likely be in the North. Since the revival of Welsh in schools there may be an increasing number who may regard English as their second language, but it is still a minority and they will still be fluent in English - and that will be their native British form.

So this makes it unique in terms the languages on Duolingo - with the possible exception of the Irish course - in that the course creators are translating between two of their native languages. Languages that they use every day within the same culture. So naturally the course will be biased towards British usage. I believe they also anticipated the vast majority of learners to be British and based it upon an existing course designed for the same audience. Therefore, they may have been less familiar with American usage and also not anticipated that there would be any great issue.

Also, if you were learning French would you not expect to learn or be interested in their culture? It makes no sense to that you would appear reluctant to learn a little of British culture simply because we largely share the same language. 'Vive la difference!' as we say in English! :-) :-) Should you ever visit Wales, a knowledge of British culture (and wider European culture) would be useful. It would certainly make things more interesting and understandable. Apart from anything else, an understanding of British terminology would be useful if for no other reason than it would make it easier to guess/remember the Welsh version of the loanwords.

The majority of courses on Duolingo are based on Anerican English and often non-American usage has been very poorly supported or accepted. So the rest of the world has been forced into second-guessing what Americans might require the answer to be. That is sometimes surprisingly difficult!

The French course, at the time I did it - long out of beta - was often truly terrible because it was frequently impossible to understand what they were expecting. This was when it was still the three-strikes format. 'Gentil' was a particularly bad example. The only accepted answer was 'awesome' - no! Often some of the expected responses made no sense in any variant of English! Because I was using the app it was impossible to report anything at that time, although I'm not convinced it actually works now. It also made it difficult to find any relevant discussions.


And if you want to experience that French frustration all over again, try the Ukrainian. I had to take a break from that for a while, just because I could never figure out which English word it wanted and became much too frustrated.


Yes, of course, when one learns a language, one wants to learn about the culture. To learn about the culture, however, means in a sense to translate the cultural concepts into concepts understood in one's own language. Once again, I have little interest in translating Welsh words into words understandable by Welshmen. Those translations should be accepted, one would hope, because, if you are an English-speaking Welshman, that is precisely what you will want. It should also accept the concept as translated into Irish, Scottish, English, Australian, and Canadian English, and indeed any other locally appropriate translations suggested. The difference in colors is a good example. If I am understanding the discussions right, the distinction between green and blue (and grey?) is somewhat different in Welsh than in American or UK English. Indeed, in English, Welshmen may call grass blue (or the sky green, I can't remember which). For me, however, it is far more important to know that the word describes what an American (my own mind or almost anyone I would be translating for) would call green, as well as blue. One should certainly try to understand the concepts described in the source language, in the terms used by that source language, but translation requires finding a concept in the target language that refers to whatever the source language was describing.

Learn Welsh in just 5 minutes a day. For free.