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Aug 9, 2011 11:23 AM

Dinner vs Supper (moved from Quebec)

So it's finally clear...dinner is a more "low class" name for an evening meal. Supper is used in "upper classes"( "dinner" is a term reserved for a formal evening meal). An average evening family meal is supper. If you are having a formal evening "out" at a restaurant then it can be called dinner.

Also where I come from, the Canadian prairies, dinner often refers to the noon meal because this is when most farm families have a large meal. The farmers working out on the field need some hearty nourishment at noon, often they have been working on their fields since sunrise. By evening they are exhausted and just look for a light meal(supper) and early bedtime! I find that people in Ontario and the U.S. refer to dinner as the evening meal. Strange, I could never call supper, dinner.

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  1. I see it completely opposite. Dinner is a more refined/elegant word to me than Supper.

    I know that in England, and as you said, parts of Canada, Dinner is Lunch... But here, I hear many more people use Dinner than Supper for the evening meal. Supper sounds so 1950's.

    1 Reply
    1. It's a culture dialect thing. USA Dinner = Canadian supper.
      It's basically derived from French "Souper" which is the evening meal and "Diner" which is lunch.

      There is no difference between the actual meals, just the word that references to them.

      Now... if somebody could explain why "Entree" became the reference to the main course...
      (rhetorical, please don't quote wiki at me)

      10 Replies
      1. re: SourberryLily

        Yes, that confused the heck out of me after I studied French in high school and college. My theory is that it's because the main course is showier, making a grand entrance, so to speak? "Voila, l'entree!" No knowledge of this, of course, but I had to find a way to make sense of it. I suspect it's probably just based on a misunderstanding, though, like "lingerie," a word I can't even bring myself to say in American dept stores. I just ask for the underwear department.

        1. re: SourberryLily

          The evening meal is referred to as "dîner" in France and "souper" in Québec (and yes the Français de la France notice).

          Lunch is "déjeuner" in both.

          Entrée really threw me initially when I was traveling in the States and no, I have no idea why that's the term for the main course south of the border.

          1. re: wattacetti

            Since when does lunch = déjeuner in Quebec.

            Déjeuné (in qc) is the first meal of the day, before noon. AKA breakfast.
            NOW... for those who wake up at noon and eat breakfast at noon, well they are the exception :P

            1. re: SourberryLily

              Petit déjeuner = breakfast in Quebec. At least where I'm sitting, and that's with the French-speaking among our heterogenous crowd.

              I don't know anyone who lives in say Maisonneuve-Hochelaga but I'll check with some friends in the regions.

              EDIT: we could always ask for a vote on the Quebec board.

              1. re: wattacetti

                Sure petit déjeuner is a french (france) expression, but more often in quebec you'll hear:
                "As-tu déjeuner ce matin?"
                "On déjeune ou?"

                And on menus, you will always see "Déjeuner". If the restaurant serves it until 3pm, it doesn't mean dejeuner=lunch. It's just saying it's serving their breakfast menu until 3pm.

                Dont mean to get all "corrective" or be insulting to your post in any way. Just don't want an english speaker reading this and thinking lunch is "Dejeuner"

                1. re: SourberryLily

                  how do you get the ' above the e? and the , under the c???
                  my keyboard doesn't allow that...not to change the subject

                  1. re: ROCKLES

                    Put your keyboard settings to Canadian French. The é is made by hitting the ? key (beside the Shift key) on a english keyboard.

                    Or you could hit something like Alt+130

                    1. re: ROCKLES

                      On a US-English Mac with default settings:
                      option-e then e [hold down the 'option' key then hit 'e', then hit 'e' again] gives é
                      option-` then e gives è
                      option-c gives ç

                      option-e then a gives á
                      option-` then a gives à

                      option-i then e gives ê

                      If you want an umlaut (for German, etc),
                      option-u then the appropriate letter gives ä or ö or ü and so on.

                      You can check your keyboard mapping for your default font by doing something like opening a window in a full-featured word processing app like Microsoft Word, then from the top menu under 'Insert' select 'Symbol...' and from the dialog box that comes up select (normal text) for the font then click on the desired character or symbol and see what the 'Keyboard Shortcut' is (if any) shown under that table of characters/symbols.

                  2. re: wattacetti

                    I'm mostly with SourberryLily on this one.

                    In Quebec:

                    breakfast = déjeuner or petit déjeuner (vs. petit déjeuner in France)
                    lunch = dîner (and increasingly just "lunch") (vs. déjeuner in France) (And I don't think I've ever heard the midday meal called "déjeuner" in Quebec, even by transplanted French)
                    evening meal = souper (dîner in France)

                    As for the evening meal in English, I would say it's more usually dinner, but supper doesn't sound out of place to me either. Either of those words used for the midday meal would seem strange to me -- that's just "lunch".

                    1. re: Mr F

                      I'll concede. Did a quick poll and most used Sourberry's vocabulary unless they were speaking formally.

            2. My father's side of the family was from the southern US, and my grandparents referred to their large noontime meal as dinner, and the much lighter evening fare as supper (they never used the word 'lunch'). My mother's parents--northerners of French-American ancestry, and Canadian on my maternal grandmother's side--called their evening meal, the largest of the day, supper as well. When I was growing up, my mother called the later meal by either name, using them interchangeably.

              When I moved away from Michigan, I heard the word 'dinner' more often than the other, and use it myself now without thinking twice. Neither word has ever denoted class to me, but calls to mind a different time, and a different way of life. And now *I'm* curious where the word 'lunch' came from, and when it came into popular use. As if I haven't procrastinated enough today.

              14 Replies
                1. re: MGZ

                  Thank you, that was very helpful. I went to look it up and got distracted (shocker). Lonja, pretty word. I like it.

                2. re: onceadaylily

                  My Louisiana and East Texas grandparents from farming families also had dinner at mid-day and supper later. Sometime while I was growing up in Colorado, I started having lunch and dinner. I would always confuse my grandparents when I invited them to dinner at 6:00 :-)

                  1. re: onceadaylily

                    For my rural Ontario grandmother (born 1896) dinner was the noon meal, supper was at 6 pm, and lunch was the snack served in the evening when playing cards (e.g. sandwiches and pickles). Does anyone else use lunch in this way?

                    1. re: sewinglizzie

                      I grew up in rural southern Minnesota farm country. At our house, lunch was the noon meal, supper was the evening meal and dinner was the Sunday afternoon meal that could be eaten anytime after 12 noon but usually before 3pm (1p or 2p was normal).

                      The farmers in my part of the country (in the old days anyway, not likely anymore) had breakfast early, a big meal at noon (dinner) and supper in the evening. They also took a mid-morning (10a) and mid-afternoon 3p or so) break and might have a snack with both referred to as lunch.

                      1. re: John E.

                        Doesn't Howard Mohr explain the difference between lunch, dinner, and little lunch?

                        1. re: paulj

                          He could have, I've never seen his book. I don't know too many people with the exaggerated Minnesota accent. I do have cousins who have some of those inflections, and they live in Wisconsin.

                      2. re: sewinglizzie

                        When I lived in London and Port Franks, Ontario, lunch had the late-night snack meaning as well as the midday meal meaning. If the midday meal were formal (something that happened very seldom) and ladies were involved, it would be a "luncheon".
                        "Dinner" for the noon meal was used by relatives "on the farm". Evening meal (served at 5:30 or 6 pm) was always supper.
                        Never really used "dinner" for the evening meal until I met my (American) husband.

                        1. re: buttertart

                          Ladies Who Lunch may go to Ladies' Luncheons but they usually just lunch with ladies who are Ladies Who Lunch.

                          1. re: huiray

                            Not in the Ontario of my childhood, they were just regular ladies with hats on for a change. ;-)

                              1. re: huiray

                                Not that posh or fancy, but that's cute.

                      3. re: onceadaylily

                        The large noontime meal is still called dinner in most parts of rural Saskatchewan, and the evening meal is called supper.

                        In my experience, in rural and urban southwestern Ontario, supper and dinner are used interchangeably for the evening meal, although supper has a slightly more casual ring to it.

                        What's interesting to me, is that the midnight meal after dances and weddings in Saskatchewan(and probably elsewhere) is sometimes called a "midnight lunch".

                        1. re: prima

                          'Midnight lunch'. I've never heard that before. I like it. It sounds not so formal as dinner, but casually festive.

                      4. Growing up near NYC 50 years ago, the evening meal was generally referred to as supper. Dinner was used for dining out. A dinner party featured the evening meal. A supper party was held late in the evening and was a lighter meal, with cocktails playing a major role. Nowadays, calling the evening meal dinner suits me to a "tea" - let the Anglo battle begin!

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: greygarious

                          I grew up in Brooklyn, NY, in the 50's - 60's where the evening meal was always "supper." Dinner implied something more elegant than eating at home (I doubt that we ever "dined" at home; we "ate" at home).

                          Nowadays I never have "supper." Whether dining in or out, the evening meal is always "dinner."

                          1. re: CindyJ

                            Ditto here - same age, but raised in Boston. We always had breakfast, lunch, and supper. Somewhere along the way supper became dinner.

                        2. I grew up in southern New England with parents from NY.
                          Dinner vs. Supper, which word to use.
                          It was determined by time of day.
                          Dinner was a large meal served before 6PM
                          A meal served after 6PM was Supper. Supper could be large or small
                          Dinner was still considered an evening meal.

                          The idea of a 'Sunday Dinner' served in the early afternoon was foreign to us. Somehow, Jews didn't have dinner in the afternoon after church..........................