Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Possible Duplicate:
“Lunch” vs. “dinner” vs. “supper” — times and meanings?

Wikipedia states that the words supper and dinner can be used interchangeably. But I am not thoroughly convinced as, well, they are two different words.

According to Merriam-Webster dictionary:

Supper is a light meal served late in the evening.

Dinner is the principal meal of the day.

I am confused as to if at all using these words interchangeably would be deemed correct and if so, under what circumstances?

NOTE: The question Lunch vs. dinner vs. supper — times and meanings? attracted some attention but the last sentence in the accepted answer put me off!

So whether you use Lunch/Dinner or Dinner/Supper is heavily determined by when your culture traditionally has its largest meal.

Maybe, I eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper. That doesn't make my breakfast my dinner right? ;)

share|improve this question

marked as duplicate by Andrew Leach, tchrist, Barrie England, FumbleFingers, cornbread ninja 麵包忍者 Jan 3 '13 at 15:25

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

2  
This isn't just an issue with English—the three main meals are petit déjeuner, déjeuner, and dîner in France, but déjeuner, dîner, and _souper in the Francophone parts of Canada, Belgium, and Switzerland. –  Branimir Ćaćić Jan 3 '13 at 11:32
2  
First of all, is this supposed to be a question in its own right or really just a comment on an accepted answer elsewhere? Second, how on Earth do you get from "whether you use lunch/dinner or dinner/supper is heavily determined by when your culture traditionally has its largest meal" to "if I breakfast like a king, that makes my breakfast my dinner"? Complete and utter non sequitur. What's more, the sentence that put you off actually answers your question here. (If some people use the dinner/supper combo, certainly at least for these people the two are not interchangeable.) –  RegDwigнt Jan 3 '13 at 11:44
    
@RegDwighт: Take it down a notch pal. I don't understand what you fuming over? If you are read whats written above the Note, there is a genuine question. And the Note was added to keep two very close but different questions apart. The "utter non sequitur" you are talking about is just a joke. I thought the emoticon would make that amply clear. –  KeyBrd Basher Jan 3 '13 at 11:57
2  
I think that other question ably demonstrates the the answer is either "Yes", "No" or "Depends", and I reckon this is a duplicate. –  Andrew Leach Jan 3 '13 at 11:58
    
@KeyBrdBasher if that was too much fuming for your tastes, here's a simpler wording. I consider this question rhetorical because you have answered it yourself. –  RegDwigнt Jan 3 '13 at 12:06

2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

The crux of your question appears to be: can the words supper and dinner be used interchangeably?

According to established dictionary definitions, the answer would seem to be yes. From Oxford English Dictionary (OED) –

supper, n.1

  1. The last meal of the day; (contextually) the time at which this is eaten, supper time.

And also from OED –

dinner, n.

The chief meal of the day, eaten originally, and still by the majority of people, about the middle of the day (cf. German Mittagsessen), but now, by the professional and fashionable classes, usually in the evening;

So, according to those definitions, if you’ve eaten your main meal of the day, which also happens to be your last meal of the day, then supper and dinner can be used interchangeably to describe that meal.

share|improve this answer

This is one question we used to ask our teachers frequently and they wouldn't know how to explain.

We all know that dinner always means the main meal of the day but it gets complicated when one considers both the mid-day meal and the meal one has before going to bed as main meals which is the case in India. But we can't call both meals dinner. So the common custom here is to have lunch in the afternoon and dinner before going to bed and consider the the difference between the two settled.

We just don't use the word supper.

share|improve this answer

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.