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Is there a word or phrase for people who eat together at the same table (not necessarily regularly) and share the same food? I would need this word in the following passage:

______ around the table share the same food. Yet in each one this food is converted into what they need.

I would prefer a single word, but if there isn't one, I would accept other solutions, too.

Note: The register of language is rather formal.

I had thought of companions, but it is too general, it does not refer only to food. In my mother tongue there is a word that means "co-eater" or "co-tabler". I was wondering if a particular term or phrase exists in English to describe that.

Edit: Due to comments of some who were not sure of one detail in the connotation I have described here, I will add that share the same food refers to the same material food (whether the dishes they actually eat are identical or not is not important).

If no commonly used word or phrase is found, would it be okay to paraphrase it in this way:

People who eat together around the table share the same food. Yet in each one this food is converted into what they need.

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  • I think the answer is probably more personalized in nature. ie. People eating together, at the same table and sharing the food would tend to be friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, partners, brothers, sisters, etc. – mikem Dec 30 '20 at 8:58
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From the SOED

commensal a. & n. 1 Eating at or pertaining to the same table. Late Middle English

  • Commensals around the table share the same food. Yet in each one this food is converted into what they need.

This seems pleonastic, so, it is probably better to change it.

  • Commensals share the same food. Yet in each one this food is converted into what they need.
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  • Is there the 'eating exactly the same food' requirement OP has been careful to include? – Edwin Ashworth Dec 29 '20 at 14:22
  • Brilliant! That answer brings a word back from its present biological applications (commensalism among bacteria and similar ideas) to its original meaning. Splendid answer. Accept it with confidence. – Anton Dec 29 '20 at 14:23
  • @EdwinAshworth No, there is no such specific meaning attached as far as the definition goes (I wouldn't have shortened it). Usually, we can suppose safely that when people share the same table (bar exceptions, as in modern cafeterias) they do partake of the same food. – LPH Dec 29 '20 at 14:28
  • In the days of restaurant eating, my wife and I rarely ordered the same food. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 29 '20 at 15:38
  • @EdwinAshworth Yes, modern times have made possible the quick and cheap availability of a great variety at the tip of the finger, and thus we must contend with a different reality; perhaps in this rather theoretical concern of the OP's sentence do we have to make abstraction of this consideration of the fine points and think in terms of basic notions, unless it is found necessary to formulate a scientific truth (but then more words are needed and away with "commensal"). – LPH Dec 29 '20 at 16:24
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(Ironically, the word you reject 'companions' started out with literally your desired meaning, from Latin con = together + panem = bread, but has evolved over time to something much broader and vaguer.)

In the military it is generally required or at least strongly customary for the personnel of a small(ish) unit to eat together, or if necessary due to space or kitchen limitations in large fractions like two halves or three thirds. This is called the 'mess', and the people who share it are messmates. But these (groups of) people share other activities -- and hardships and risks -- in addition to eating together, so the connotation is somewhat broader than you asked for.

Much less serious, but as long as I'm posting, in computer science a classic problem (category) in concurrency is conventionally stated in terms of 'dining philosphers'. In some extremely geeky environments you could refer to 'philosophers' and expect your hearers to make this connection.

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Two people said to be eating together sharing the same food could be said to be communal. It is an adjective described by Merriam Webster here; I believe the 3rd definition is the most accurate for this situation:

3a: characterized by collective ownership and use of property

3b: participated in, shared, or used in common by members of a group or community

  • a communal kitchen
  • gathered for a communal meal

People gathering for a meal could be said to be communing. This is commonly referenced in the religious sense when some Christians will receive communion at church:

2a - capitalized : a Christian sacrament in which consecrated bread and wine are consumed as memorials of Christ's death or as symbols for the realization of a spiritual union between Christ and communicant or as the body and blood of Christ

2b: the act of receiving Communion

I will note that this is not as precise to food as @LPH answer of commensal, but I believe it is in much more common use. It has the added bonus of specifying that the two people are sharing the exact same thing, be it food, or other property. I think in this case I would describe two people sharing a plate as communal eaters, as they are sharing a communal plate.

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  • I like this better than commensal, which nowadays is mostly used as a biology term. Communal by itself doesn't mean eating, but communal dining or communal meals definitely does. Communal dining is often used to promote fellowship and socialization in group living scenarios. – barbecue Dec 30 '20 at 0:41
  • But the people engaging in communal dining are not themselves communal, are they? – TonyK Dec 30 '20 at 13:18
  • @TonyK, one definition of communal is "of or relating to one or more communes", and a commune is typically a group of people sharing property. So I believe it is technically accurate to say they are communal, but would be much more commonplace to say that the food is communal. I still think communal eaters would be the most widely understood way to designate two people sharing the same food. – App-Devon Dec 30 '20 at 19:19
  • @TonyK, I think there's a simpler explanation than my previous comment. Webster's definition of communally part 3a (posted above) reads "characterized by collective ownership and use of property". In this case the people sharing the food are the collective owners/users of said food. – App-Devon Dec 31 '20 at 0:58
  • Whatever definitions you come up with, we just don't use the word to apply to individual people. – TonyK Dec 31 '20 at 1:02
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This is not your requested one word, but colloquially I'd use the phrase "family style." That indicates eating shared dishes, not individual orders.

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If the people who are eating together are providing the food themselves then the term "pot-luck" would be appropriate to describe the meal, not the diners.

potluck(Merriam-Webster): 1(b) - a communal meal to which people bring food to share — usually used attributively

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  • That usage is marked as North American.  (In my experience, it's not common, nor likely to be widely understood without some context or explanation, in the UK.) – gidds Dec 30 '20 at 19:43
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I think the nearest terms that would be generally understood are eating companions and the very similar dining companions.

Those clearly refer to people who eat together — sharing the same table and conversation, though (as another comment pointed out) not necessarily the same food.  (Maybe in many English-speaking cultures that doesn't happen often enough to justify a specific word?)

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  • Was just about to make the same pair of suggestions. – dbmag9 Dec 30 '20 at 12:36
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What about the more neutral participants.

Why focus on this level of abstraction though, you can take it a level higher and just refer to the type of group. Perhaps they are ambassadors sharing the same food, or hobo's, churchgoeers, jet-setters, travelers? Maybe the sentence just needs a rewrite.

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