A Conversation for International Dining Etiquette

UK - Dinner or Lunch?

Post 1

Huw B

Mealtimes can have different names in different parts of the UK. One oddity is the use of Lunch and Dinner.

In Western and Northern parts of England and Wales (I cannot comment on Scotland) it is normal to use Dinner to mean the midday meal (12:00-13:00) and Tea for the early evening meal (17:00-18:00). In Southern England it is more normal to use Lunch for the midday meal and Dinner for the early evening meal. This leads to the oddity that Dinner means either midday meal or early evening meal depending on your location.

This oddity is further complicated because these different words can often have specific meanings in specific settings. Example 1 - those who use Lunch for the midday meal will commonly refer to midday meals provided to schoolchildren as school dinners. Example 2 - In areas where dinner is the midday meal the large 'roast meat and 4 veg with gravy' Sunday meal can be called Sunday Lunch.

This might seem to lead to confusion but in practice it never has in my experience - everyone seems to be able to work out what meal is being referred to.

UK - Dinner or Lunch?

Post 2

schweinhundboy (138357)

i live in north east lincolnshire. grimsby area - no jokes please.

most people i know call the midday meal dinner and the evening meal tea. at school, they have dinner. however, me and a few others follow the southern practice with a slight variation. we have lunch at midday and tea in the evening. dinner does not feature in our meals.

while others occasionally have problems with our meal names we seem to be happy with our fusion of northern and southern practices and it works for us.

dinner, when used, is a meal with other people (eg so and so has invited us round for dinner). this is about 7-ish and will comprise of 3 or more courses, wine etc.

i and my other friends who eat lunch and tea, not dinner, do encounter confusion sometimes, most of the time it all works out. bizarre.

UK - Dinner or Lunch?

Post 3

Demon Drawer

I always get confused by this. A tea in the SE mean High tea about 4-5 when tea is served with scones and cakes dinner will follow at about 8. Noone up north here tends to eat quite that late, preferring around 6-7, as a rule, must be a light thing in winter.

UK - Dinner or Lunch?

Post 4


In Central Scotland dinner time is around midday and tea time is when you get in after work in the evening unless:-

1) you are eating in a restaurant where you get lunch menus at midday and dinner menus in the evening,

2) you come from Morningside (Edinburgh) or Kelvinside (Glasgow) where they speak a totally different langauge to the rest of the UK.

UK - Dinner or Lunch?

Post 5


Personally, I always thought that dinner was the big meal of the day, whether that happens around midday or in the evening, lunch is a snack at around midday, and tea is what you have in the evening if you had your dinner earlier. Supper is a glass of milk and biscuits before you go to bed, but then I have a friend from London who insists that supper is what I call tea. And there's only 30 miles distance between our birthplaces.

UK - Dinner or Lunch?

Post 6


I'm glad this is being debated as it has long been a thorn in my side as I am from the North (Stoke) but have parents from the South.

My friends always referred to dinner and tea, my parents to lunch and dinner. Since then I have chosen to refer to lunch and tea to avoid confusion (which intially received stick from both sides but evetually calmed down).

I think if everyone settled for this compromise then the ambiguity could be removed from British naming conventionals for temporal variation in meal times forever.

UK - Dinner or Lunch?

Post 7


And then the foreigner comes and says: «Tea? Tea? I want to have dinner, not just tea!»

smiley - smiley

UK - Dinner or Lunch?

Post 8

Huw B

I suspect that Solnushka has a point - that Dinner is often applied to the largest meal of the day. I would imagine the particular time of day may have been determined partly by the working day than anything else. Thus the dinner/supper divide is not dis-similar to the working class/middle class divide.
The truth probably lies in the origins of these words - e.g. maybe dinner is Norse and lunch is French? Any food-obsessed lexicographers out there?

UK - Dinner or Lunch?

Post 9

Blatherskite the Mugwump - Bandwidth Bandit

The US has a similar divide, although our names are different. To some, the midday meal is lunch, and the evening meal is dinner. To others, mostly on the East Coast and in the Deep South, the midday meal is dinner and the evening meal is supper.

Then there's that weird late-morning meal usually assosciated with Sundays, known as brunch.

Odd... when an Englishman goes to have tea, he eats an entire meal. I wonder if they're surprised to be invited out for coffee in the States, and end up having just coffee... smiley - winkeye

UK - Dinner or Lunch?

Post 10


The class thing is certainly bourne out by my supper-insistant friend, who is definitely a cut above me.

UK - Dinner or Lunch?

Post 11

Phryne- 'Best Suppurating Actress'

If left to my own devices I do not get up before nine. Thus, my breakfast is the American's brunch and Winnie the Pooh's elevenses.
I will then have lunch at two or so, and dinner at six. The latter I call dinner, tea, or supper interchangeably. 'High tea' is something I use in an ironic sense, denoting silver cake-stands and the like. Lunch is always the one between breakfast and dinner.
What's that nonsense about eating lots for breakfast and nowt for dinner? Does anyone actually follow this?
Area-wise, I am in the centre of England and as such get to observe both North and South and say "Hmm. Interesting."

UK - Dinner or Lunch?

Post 12


~Greebo ponders this questions for a while~

~Two hours later she returns~

Dinner/Lunch/Tea/Breakfast... if it is edible... me will eat it...

~Greebo goes off muttering to herself...~

UK - Dinner or Lunch?

Post 13


Historically dinner was the main and midday meal for everyone. Wealthy people might have a cold supper before retiring for the night.

Eventually Dinner got later and later for wealthy people, who got up late and didn't have to do manual labour; and being able to afford candles could eat after dark. They adopted the term nuncheon, then later luncheon, and now other than for formal entertaining, lunch, for their midday meal, slightly lighter than Dinner but still probably three courses if eaten formally in a restaurant or at home by people who don't have to work or worry about their weight, or pride themselves on having travelled in France. These terms were copied in the south and the north too by wannabe middle calss people apeing their betters, although their dinner is normally taken rather early at about 7.00 p.m. when they too get home from work.

Tea (strictly high tea) was a selection of light snacks taken with liquid tea by wealthy ladies with their friends and greedy Edwardian men; or a light nursery meal taken by their children who could not wait up for dinner at 8.00 p.m.

In working/lower middle class communities Dinner stayed at midday
and the evening meal, taken immediately on return from work is tea - probably something lighter such as eggs on toast, perhaps followed by homemade cake. This might be followed at about 9.00 p.m. by supper, e.g. cake, toast or crumpets.

Some affected middle class people refer to their usual evening meal as supper, probably to distinguish it from a more formal dinner with guests round, and to make it clear that they indeed do have formal dinners with guests (8+) round.

UK - Dinner or Lunch?

Post 14


Supper for the main evening seems to have come from colonial roots where the heat would have forced the evening meal later, much as it is in Southern Europe. The snack that was supper was moved to mid afternoon and became "tea" (similar to a Spanish merienda) and the meal that was tea was moved to the evening and became "supper". Dinner was used for the larger meal, whether lunch or supper.

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UK - Dinner or Lunch?

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