Supper vs. Dinner: Interesting Differences between Dinner vs. Supper

If somebody tells you that you should come over for supper, what time do you think they expect you to be there? And what if they invite you for dinner? Supper vs. Dinner are often used interchangeably in modern vernacular, yet they carry distinct historical and cultural connotations. But is there a difference between a dinner and a supper?

Supper vs. Dinner

Key Takeaways

  • Supper and dinner have distinct historical meanings, with supper being lighter and dinner more substantial.
  • Dinner doesn’t refer to a specific time, yet it always refers to the main meal of the day. In contrast, Supper is the evening meal.

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Supper vs. Dinner: Definition

Definition of Supper

Supper refers to a light meal typically eaten in the evening. Historically, it’s the term used for the last meal of the day.

Supper comes from French “evening meal”, leaving little to the imagination. Jesus’s last meal is known as the Last Supper, so in a way, you can say that supper is also the last meal of the day.

Definition of Dinner

Dinner, on the other hand, signifies a main meal which can be consumed at midday or in the evening, depending on cultural norms and personal habits. It’s often the most substantial meal of the day.

The word dinner comes from Latin where a similar word means “to break one’s fast”. Whenever dinner might happen, be it during the day or the evening, you can always expect it to be a big meal, with many dishes of all kinds. 

How to Spot Supper vs. Dinner

But how do you know if the main meal of someone who is inviting you for dinner is during the day or the evening? As Noah Webster put it, “the dinner of fashionable people would be the supper of rustics”. This means that a midday meal is called dinner only in rural parts of the country. Everywhere else, a midday meal is expected to be called lunch.

Though you can still hear the word supper in conversations, it is a lot less frequently used than at the beginning of the 20th century. At the same time, the word lunch started gaining more popularity. Today, dinner is the most popular word related to meals out of the three, so you can feel safe using it, regardless of the time of the day you are talking about. The best thing you can do, however, is to always tell your guests the time of the meal, rather than calling it a supper, a lunch, or a dinner. This way, you will avoid confusion and always have your guests arriving on time.

Supper vs. Dinner Examples

Examples of “Supper”

  • They invited us over for supper to enjoy a home-cooked meal together.
  • After the play, the couple went out for a late-night supper at their favorite diner.
  • On Sundays, the family gathers early for a hearty afternoon supper.
  • The smell of roasted chicken filled the house as they prepared for supper.
  • While traveling in the countryside, they stopped at a small inn for supper.
  • The children were eager to finish their homework before supper was ready.
  • She set the table with her best china in anticipation of the special supper with guests.

Examples of “Dinner”

  • They hosted a formal dinner party to celebrate their anniversary.
  • The chef prepared a three-course dinner featuring local cuisine.
  • Every year, their family has a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings.
  • The conference concluded with a gala dinner for all the attendees.
  • On their first date, they went out for a romantic dinner under the stars.
  • The charity organized a benefit dinner to raise funds for the new community center.
  • He made reservations at an upscale restaurant for a birthday dinner surprise.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between supper and dinner in terms of meaning?

‘Supper’ is traditionally a lighter evening meal, often eaten later than the main dinner, while ‘dinner’ refers to the main meal of the day, which can be served at noon or in the evening.

Can the terms supper and dinner be used interchangeably?

In many modern contexts, supper and dinner can be used interchangeably when referring to the evening meal, though there remain regional and cultural distinctions.

In what regions is the term ‘supper’ more commonly used instead of ‘dinner’?

In the UK, ‘supper’ often refers to a light meal before bedtime. In parts of the US and Canada, especially in rural or agricultural communities, ‘supper’ is the evening meal, while ‘dinner’ may occur at midday.

Does the term ‘supper’ have a connotation of being more formal or informal compared to ‘dinner’?

‘Supper’ is generally considered to be more informal than ‘dinner,’ which can denote a grander or more formal meal, depending on the context.

What time of the day is traditionally considered ‘supper time’?

Traditionally, ‘supper time’ is in the late evening, after the day’s work is done, typically after 7 PM.

How do the names of meals vary in different English-speaking cultures throughout the day?

English-speaking cultures have diverse names for meals: for instance, ‘tea’ in the UK can refer to a light afternoon meal or the evening dinner, and ‘lunch’ or ‘dinner’ may be used for the noon meal, depending on the region.

Last Updated on December 8, 2023

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