Most have us have caught ourselves wondering about the term supper vs the term dinner. Have you ever been confused about how to use the words supper vs dinner? Fret not; we are here to help you out!

Over the years, as colloquial language and terms have been updated to slang and even newer slang, words like supper have characteristically faded out. Different families still use these two words, supper and dinner in the same connotations, which usually are used as replaceable terms. Some say that the term supper is specific to a region or a group of people, but there are different meanings attached to these terms in different places.

What are the Technical Definitions of these Terms?

The dictionary has a diplomatic take on this debate.  According to definition, supper and dinner are often used as interchangeable terms in the United States, where both words stand to describe an evening meal. In the United Kingdom, a small proportion of the population use the word supper to describe the evening meal. In India, the word supper does not hold any prominence. Dinner, according to the dictionary meaning, is considered to be the main meal of the day which is taken usually around midday or towards the evening.

Which One to Use: Dinner or Supper?

Dinner and supper and their usage as reference to meals can differ from place to place. For example, from a survey conducted across about 42,000 people in the United Kingdom about what word do they use for the evening meal, some people said it was dinner, some Brits call it tea and according to rules of British English, supper can also mean or indicate a snack or a light meal that is eaten late in the evening, probably after eating dinner.

The word ‘supper’ comes from the word ‘souper’ which is Old French for a light evening meal, which is lighter than other meals taken throughout the day. The term dinner is derived from non classical Latin, which refers to the largest meal that you have in the day, especially like breaking a fast. Dinner, the considerably largest meal of the day, can be at any time during the day regardless of if it was taken in the morning, afternoon or even evening, by definition, but the use of the word supper, on the other hand is more time sensitive and specific.

So Which One is Correct?

Linguistics and usage of words can differ for people hailing from different parts of the world or even from different regions of the same country. On the basis of the aforementioned definitions of both terms supper and dinner, we have drawn two major characteristic differences that can help you identify which word is the correct one to use for a given situation, and to settle the supper vs. dinner debate. To clarify, both words have different uses and both are correct as individual terms.

The first major difference between dinner and supper is that dinner is a large meal while supper is generally a lighter meal. The other major difference established is that dinner can be a meal at any point during the day, but supper is specifically eaten in the evening.

In earlier times, around the 1800s and before, rural Americans used to call their day meal as dinner as most people use to work as farmers and labourers, especially in the Southern and Mid Western parts, and they needed to have the biggest meal during the day for proper nourishment to carry about physically draining jobs. Supper, for them, was supposed to be a light soup meal, thus the name, which was usually eaten in the evening, probably as the last meal of the day. The word supper is still in use in America, most commonly in the states of Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota.

However, in today’s time, supper is rarely used anymore, especially by the younger generations and millenials. Dinner is now the more popular term and it comes with a different connotation. The day meal is usually referred to as lunch, almost everywhere now and dinner has now become an evening meal, although lunch is now the heavier meal and if dinner comes with a formal invite, it might even require you to dress up a bit.

What About the Use of these Terms in India?

The actual debate of supper vs dinner never actually happened in the Indian context. Indian meals have been usually divided by time and not by the quantity or size of the meal, unlike in early Britain or America. Indians start their day with breakfast, which essentially means breaking your night long fast, which is the first meal of the day. The after noon meal is lunch, which is usually the heaviest and finally the evening meal has always been colloquially referred to as dinner. The Indian culture also has a concept of having evening snacks called naashta which is often accompanied by tea. This small meal can be in the early evening or late afternoon.


Language and the usage of different words have always varied across different countries, regions and cultures across different time periods. The supper vs. dinner debate has been going on for decades, as the terms have involved with their usage and meanings over time. These differences do not only arise with cultural gap, but sometimes also because of difference in individual interpretations of the terms and their connotations.

The terms dinner and supper essentially have different meanings across different regions, but with time, they are now used almost interchangeably, in fact the word dinner has completely replaced it. This is also an important example how with time, not only do the practices and belief and lifestyles of people transform, but there is also often a more subtle, almost unnoticeable, yet major change that defines the present culture and existing changes in social norms and practices. This concludes our dinner vs. supper debate.

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