Smita Dey

স্পষ্ট ভাষী মানুষ

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what is dinner

You can be confused if I ask you ‘what is dinner’. We all are acquainted with the word dinner’.  It is known to us as one of the three regular meals of a day.

My question is to you- do we know what dinner is?Probably you are confused with this question. You might be thinking it is a silly question whereas every one of us knows the answer. I think it is not so easy to answer as much as we think. Let me clarify this.

Dinner is the most common word to us as the evening meal of a day. We consider the meal as dinner what we consume in the evening time. Incidentally, many of us do not know that there are some controversies about the term “Dinner”. So let’s see.

What is Dinner: The Meaning

The word “Dinner” is a noun which means it’s only a name that specifies a time when we need to take our meal.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, the word ‘dinner’ means the chief or main meal, taken in the midday or the evening. The word also means a formal evening meal, typically in honor of a person or event.[1]

Cambridge dictionary says dinner means the main meal of the day, usually the meal, we eat in the evening but sometimes in Britain, the meal eaten in the middle of the day.[2]

As per the Online Etymology Dictionary, the word ‘dinner’ always used in English for the main meal of the day.[3]

According to Western cultures, dinner is the largest meal of the day. The people of Western are used to have their dinner in the evening. Dinner is also a formal meal. Previously, the main meal of the day was taken at midday and it was called dinner.[4]

Dinner Etymology: Dinner Origin

The word ‘dinner’ is derived from the Old French word “disner” meaning as breakfast (to break one’s fasting). So, from the origin of the word dinner, we can find that dinner was the first meal of the day taken around noon. It was the biggest meal of the day. The lighter meal was known as supper.

In due course of time, more meals were added to the day and people started to take these before dinner. These earlier meals broke the fast and started to be considered as breakfast (dinner). Then the meal “dinner” was started to be considered as the main meal of the day at the later time of a day.

Dinner or Lunch

The word Dinner is considered or can be interchanged with the word “lunch” in some parts of the world. So, we can say dinner does not mean the time of a meal. It depends on where we are, it can be meant as midday food or the evening food.

Moreover, on some special occasions, the word dinner is used to refer to the meal at noon or in the early afternoon. ‘Christmas dinner’ is a good example.

However, one thing is common all over the world: dinner is considered as the main meal or food of the day. Now the question may come; if anyone asks you to have dinner with him/her, how could you know what time does he/she offers you? My answer is, it will depend on where you are.

UK Conception

In the UK, the manifestation of dinner was in the middle age being known as “Cena”, Latin for dinner. The nobility used to eat formal and lavish dinners at noon. Yeldham says that they were showy of displaying wealth and power, with cooks working in the kitchen from dawn to get things ready.

Cooking dinner in the evening with no electricity was not possible. Farmers ate dinner around midday too. When the artificial lighting spread, the people started to eat dinner later in the day. The working lunch started in the 17th century.

The middle and lower classes’ meal by following a pattern and time were changed according to their working hours. Most people started to eat three meals a day in towns and cities by the 18th Century as Day says. Dinner had been pushed into the evening or started to be considered as an evening meal by the early 19th Century.[5]

US Conception

It can be at noon or in the evening in the U.S. Previously it was considered as the first meal of the day around noon. Dinner is taken as the evening meal in the western world. In parts of the United States dinner means the evening meal that can be interchanged with supper.

In the South Parts of America during farming tradition the people took heavy food at noontime to get the strength for the whole day. The word ‘supper’ has derived from “to sup”. It was derived from farming tradition. The people used to prepare the soup and would take it in the evening.

Simply, we can say that they would sup the soup. It should be noticed that supper is a lighter evening meal. But dinner is the heavier meal of the day. When a large number of Americans started to do work far away from home they couldn’t return home so they shifted their main meal in the evening. From this view, we can say that dinner is the main meal of the day we take in the evening.

Dinner is the evening meal

Nowadays dinner is considered as the evening meal for the people of the modern world. For instance, Candle Light Dinner is a more popular and fascinating word to the modern people. It is also clear that dinner is heavier than any other meal of the day and is taken in the evening.

So we can consider Dinner as the evening meal to the mass people that should be taken by 5 to 7 pm. If it is taken later than the usual time it can be considered as late dinner. However, dinner means the evening and heavier meal of the day to me.

Dinner and Supper

Supper is generally considered as the synonym of the word dinner referring to the meal taken in the evening. Supper was the evening meal when the people used to have their dinner in the daytime.

You already know the origin of the word ‘Supper’. Supper can be defined as a late-evening snack. The word is also used to refer to an informal family meal and dinner is used for a formal meal. [6]

Family Dinner

Family dinner is the time for family gatherings. In the modern era, people do not get the opportunity to spend time together with family except at dinner time. So, dinner is an important meal for all to spend quality family time.

Formal Dinner

Formal dinner is arranged on special occasions or programs for a large number of people. A man needs to wear evening attire to attend formal dinner. It consists of various courses. Butlers and serving staffs serve food and all food is served from the kitchen. You can find seating protocol in a formal dinner. [7]

Christmas Dinner

The meal eaten at Christmas is known as Christmas dinner. There is no time bound for taking the meal. From the evening of Christmas Eve to Christmas Day, the meal is eaten at any time. It depends on the diner’s choice.

The meal is taken to celebrate the occasion. The meal is usually luscious and yummy taste food. Roasted meat, Christmas pudding, and cake are very common items for the meal.

Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving is a national holiday in the United States, Canada, and many other countries. It is celebrated for giving thanks and sacrifice for the blessings of the harvest.[8]

Roasted Turkey is the central part of the meal. Mashed potatoes with gravy and cranberry sauce, creamed corn, green beans casserole, and roasted vegetables are very common on the menu.

What We Should Eat at Dinner Time

It is considered to all that we must take heavy food at dinner time as it gives us the full strength. So we do not have any option to underestimate the meal in our dinner time. We must be aware of the food we are taking at dinner time as it becomes helpful for our body.

So we must know about the nutrition values of the food we take at dinner. We need to know what types of food we need for our bodies at dinner time.

If you are having your dinner only to filling up your empty stomach, I would say, it is not worthy to have the meal as the only purpose of filling our empty stomach with only tastier food not containing any food value.

I expect we all will take our dinner that does not only fulfill our stomach, it also assures us of good health with healthy food.


You can have a clear conception of what is dinner. You also can have an idea we need to have foods with full of nutrition at our dinner. 

As dinner is an important meal of a day, no matter it is taken as a midday meal or evening meal, we must keep our concentration for our dinner food. 

While we are cooking our dinner foods or selecting our menu we have to concentrate to have healthy meals with tastier foods. We cannot skip our food value by having tastier unhealthy foods. It is true, our dinner time cannot be enjoyable without tastier food. So we must know the technique of the mingling of nutrition and delicious foods.


  1. Oxford Dictionary
  2. Cambridge dictionary 
  3. Online Etymology Dictionary
  5. BBC