I'm confused about the words dish and plate. Could someone please explain the difference?


4 Answers 4


A plate is a specific type of dish. A dish is generally something that food is eaten or served from. A plate tends to refer specifically to a flat dish that is suitable for holding food that does not have a high liquid content. The other common type of dish is a bowl. A bowl will be similar to a hollow sphere cut in half and is useful for serving soups and other foods with high liquid content which would run off of a plate.

A large plate intended for serving food may be referred to as a platter.

  • This is news to me. I'm a native speaker of American English and I've always considered "plate" and "dish" to be interchangeable.
    – gnicko
    Commented Jul 16, 2020 at 20:52

@aaronasterling gives a good explanation of what they mean as pieces of crockery. They can also both mean — drat, I can’t find a good synonym now! — let’s say, menu items you might order at a restaurant:

My favourite dish at the Murray Avenue Grill is their spinach salad with candied pecans.


The Ketchery has the best seafood plate in town.

These arose in obvious metonymy from the crockery usage, but have developed specific connotations. Dish in this sense is much more general, and used (afaik) across most or all of the English-speaking world. Plate is less usual, and more associated (I think) with North American usage, and with fancier restaurant subcultures.

  • 1
    Good point! I had totally forgotten about those usages. Defining words is not nearly as easy as it seems like it should be from the outside. Commented Dec 6, 2010 at 21:37

DISH : 1. An open, generally shallow concave container for holding, cooking, or serving food. 2. The food served or contained in a dish: a dish of ice cream.

PLATES : 1.A plate is a specific type of dish. 2.a shallow, usually circular dish, often of earthenware or porcelain, from which food is eaten. 3.the contents of such a dish; plateful. 4.an entire course of a meal served on such a dish: I had the vegetable plate for lunch.


Like many other words in the English language, there is a confusion from time to time about the real, or exact, meaning of terms. Here's what I think:

"Dish" is more of the generic term, as in "dish washer", "set of dishes", "main dish", etc.; however, while talking about dishes, cups are cups, saucers are saucers, bowls of any kind are always bowls, serving platters are always platters; however, in the group of dishes, there are "plates" which are noticeably larger than dishes and generally accommodate several kinds of food but are never used for serving food. One, I suppose, could call anything rather flat as a "dish" and never be wrong, which is not the case for "plate".

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