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Difference between dinner and supper?

Hey guys,

So, I’m not a native speaker of English, but as I understand it, “dinner” is the main meal of the day and can be eaten either at midday or in the evening, whereas “supper” is definitely in the evening. The tips and notes for the Food skill say, “vespermanĝo = dinner, the evening meal”. Who’s right, my English dictionary and I or the Esperanto Food skill notes? (:

May 30, 2015



Here's a cool image I found explaining the dialectal differences:


And here's a map for the UK:


My husband is from London and he calls the midday meal "dinner" and the evening meal "tea", whereas I call the midday meal "lunch" and the evening meal "dinner". It causes much confusion.


The English language: we apologise for any inconvenience.


English is completely inconsistent on this, actually. It varies a lot by region, class, age, and who knows what else. Where I grew up, "dinner" was the evening meal and there was no such thing as "supper." Overall though, "dinner" and "supper" are used pretty interchangably these days for the evening meal, and "dinner" tends to be more widely used/understood, as "supper" is much more regional than dinner. Both should be accepted though, and if they're not, just send a report.


In the UK, dinner can mean midday meal (most Americans call that lunch). In the U.S., dinner almost always means the evening meal.

So, your dictionary and the notes are correct. But for the Esperanto course, which I believe uses American English as the standard, it is best to assume that dinner will mean the evening meal.

Hope that helps.


Virtually synonymous


To build off this, I feel like "supper" has more of a homey feel while "dinner" has more of a formal feeling to it.


I've always known "supper" and "dinner" to mean the same thing. I always say dinner though.


Thank you, everyone, for the comments on this! How fascinating! I expected there might be a little variation, but I didn’t quite expect that much! (: I will now attempt to teach myself to talk like 7895123G, because having tea at 6 p.m. just sounds really fancy! (;


So there is no misunderstanding. Tea in the NW of England is the main meal of the day.


In the USA, 'dinner' is mostly used, while 'supper' is not used as frequently. Both refer to an evening meal.


Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner is West Coast; Breakfast/Dinner/Supper is Midwest and Southern US. I don't know what the New England States use. I'm open to correction about this. This has just been my experience. Bill and I are both from California, so we say lunch and dinner all the time, and we drive our Midwestern and Southern friends crazy. :)


*Not all of the South. I've never heard anyone say supper, ha ha. It drives me nuts to hear it, though. :P It's definitely just dinner.


Yes, I like dinner. Sometimes we say supper though, when we want to be quaint, just amongst ourselves as family members. It does have a comfort food ring to it. :) But I'll remember to ask you what you had for dinner, not supper! :)


I'm from Florida and I don't like the word supper either.


Seconding. I never heard supper there either, but I lived in Houston, which is like South Light—same great taste, half the fat!


i'm from alabama and my family would kill me for saying dinner is at 6pm. me and my mom still fight over it. the order should go breakfast / dinner / supper. to which my question is "well when do you eat lunch?" because she does say lunch. but she hasn't come up with a valid response yet.


I'm in the northeast, and we use dinner here. I don't think I've heard anyone use "supper" for the evening meal. Then again, I live in a city. I don't know what it's like in rural areas.


I know the word supper and I've heard people use it, but I've never used this word myself. The word kind of bothers me.


I always understood it to be a snack you ate before going to bed. Either a slice of toast or some biscuits with a cup of tea.


People around where I live (NE Alberta Canada) call the evening meal, eaten at around 5 or 6 PM "supper" and the noon meal either "lunch" or "dinner". When I was corresponding with a woman who lived in California, she always referred to "supper" as "dinner".

In the 1960's when my dad was working for a farmer, he used to say that they had "dinner" at noon and that it was a big meal because they were working hard and that at 4 PM, they had what he called "lunch" and then they had "supper" at about 7 or 8 PM.
Everybody has their own schedules about when they have lunch and supper.


Where I'm from (Manchester, UK), we have lunch, tea in the evening, and then supper is just a snack before bed. Dinner is either lunch or tea, whichever one is the 'big meal' of the day. Confusing, I know


Most people I know would say supper and dinner are almost interchangeable and that they are eaten in the evening, not midday. I live in southern California and grew up in the northeast coast of the US. It may well be different in the south and midwest of this country. My parents were British but I have no idea what they would say( if they were still with us). I think for many in this country the distinction between the two words is being lost. Also, to my ears supper sounds a bit more common and dinner more high class.


I am British from N.W. England. Where I come from supper is a late evening meal 10pm which you only have if you have not eaten earlier of you have been to the pub. The meal I have at 6pm I call tea. I have my dinner at lunchtime which is about noon. Very occasionally brunch a meal in size and time between breakfast and dinner. And breakfast at 6am.


so you're a hobit? you're saying you're a hobit.

"what about second breakfast?"


And elevenses I forgot.


So the question really becomes when do you lot sleep?


I am not sleeping. I am only resting my eyes.


Personally for me:

  • Supper is an informal late night (definitely after-dinner) snack (NOT a meal). & almost doesn't exist, at the same time.

  • Dinner & tea are interchangable words for the evening meal.

  • Tea is also a drink.

  • Lunch is the second meal of the day, aiming for somewhere between 11 am and 3 pm.

  • Breakfast is the first meal of the day & is also occasionally skipped.

  • Brunch doesn't exist.

I have known for a long time that this varies depending on where you're from. This is just what they mean to me & as far as I know, to most people I know in person.

I'm a native English-speaker from neither the USA nor UK.


Come to the UK and we'll do brunch! It exists and you're really missing out!


I live in the southern US, and my grandparents used "supper" almost exclusively. I say dinner now as an adult, but growing up we only used dinner as a 1-2PM meal on holidays like Christmas or Thanksgiving.


Definitely regional, and fun to hear who says what. I'm from the NE US, suburban (north of Boston), and I grew up with breakfast, lunch and supper usually. Dinner in our home could be mid-day or evening, but was bigger and fancier than plain old lunch or supper. Brunch existed, but my family didn't really do brunch.

But in Esperanto, the timing is built into the words themselves - matinmanĝo, tagmanĝo, vespermanĝo - which makes things clearer.

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