Difference between Dinner and Supper

By: | Updated: Dec-5, 2017
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Many people say that the words “dinner” and “supper” are interchangeable. Others say that they can only be interchanged depending on where you are. Then there’s another group who says the two words have different meanings. Which idea is correct? If you don’t know, you’re in the right place. In this article, we will discuss the difference between dinner and supper.

Summary Table

Dinner Supper
Derived from the Old French word disner which means “dine” Derived from the Old French word souper which means “evening meal”
The main or heaviest meal of the day, regardless of when you eat it; the standard term for evening meal in the U.S. since the heaviest meal is served in the evening A light meal usually taken in the evening
In most countries, it describes a formal or grand affair that features a meal Informal meal; also describes any meal served with chips (in Northern England) or a snack eaten before bedtime (U.K.)


dinner in a restaurant

The word dinner originated from the Old French word disner which means “dine.” Traditionally, it referred to the farmers’ first and heaviest meal of the day, which was usually served at noon.

In most parts of the world nowadays, “dinner” refers to the main or heaviest meal of the day, regardless of when you eat it (morning, noon, or evening). However, in many cultures, the largest and most important meal is served in the evening when everybody is home, which is why the term “dinner” has become the standard term for the evening meal.

The term “dinner” is also extensively used to refer to any special meal on a holiday or any special day, such as Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas dinner, New Year’s Eve dinner, or even graduation dinner. It can also be used to refer to an event, usually an assembly of people, that features a formal meal, feast, or banquet. An example of this is the Business Leaders’ Annual Dinner.

On the other hand, the term supper originated from the Old French word souper which means “evening meal.”

Many years ago, American farmers would only have a light meal in the evening, usually just soup. Today, “supper” refers to a light informal meal eaten late evening in the U.S. This is the simple meal you eat with your family members in your dining area or kitchen table in the evening.

In the U.K., “supper” refers to a light snack eaten before bedtime, typically consisting of warm milk and biscuits. In some parts of Northern England, it refers to any food item that is served with chips (e.g. a meal that consists of sausages and chips is called “sausage supper”).

Dinner vs Supper

What, then, is the difference between “dinner” and “supper”?

“Dinner” is the most important or heaviest meal of the day. It can be eaten in the morning, at noon, or in the evening. “Supper,” on the other hand, refers to a light simple meal eaten in the evening.

Moreover, “dinner” usually refers to a grand affair or meal on important event or occasions (e.g. Thanksgiving dinner). “Supper,” conversely, is an informal meal. In some cultures, it may refer to a simple snack before bedtime or a meal that is served with chips (e.g. sausage supper).

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