The time in which you would have supper vs dinner depends on the region of the world you are in. Different regions throughout the world use these two words to represent two different, and sometimes the same, times.
In most parts of the United States supper and dinner mean the same thing(dinner is much more common) and take place around 6 pm to 7 pm. In the U.K, dinner takes place around 6 pm and supper is an optional late-evening snack around 10 pm
Read on to learn more about why both words are used and when they are the same and when they are different.
What Does The Dictionary Say?
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, both supper and dinner are used interchangeably to signify the time in which the late, or last, meal of the day is eaten. The dictionary states that “supper” is used to mean an informal meal, while dinner means to eat a more formal meal.
When is Supper?
In the early 18th and 19th centuries, the term “supper” was used to signify what we now call “lunch”. It was called “supper” back then because it came before the last meal of the day. Supper in the earlier centuries was also a much bigger meal than our lunch is today.
The simple reason that “supper” was a much bigger meal is because of farming. Farmers would need to eat a huge meal in the middle of the day in order to have enough strength to continue the hard labor throughout the rest of the day.
It’s common today to find the word “supper” being used to refer to the last meal from older generations who used the word more often.
When is Dinner?
Dinner, while always used to signify the last meal of the day, is usually eaten in the later afternoon or early evening. The word “dinner” doesn’t mean a specific time, but just the main meal of the day. For people who were raised by those born after the 1930s and beyond, “dinner” always will signify a late meal.
Word Usage in the U.S. Regions
Throughout the United States, both of the words “dinner” and “supper” are still used today. This is especially true in the Midwest and Southern parts of the country. This is because these two regions rely more heavily on agriculture than any other place.
While the South and Midwest don’t traditionally rely on that big “supper” meal in the middle of the day any longer, the traditions and language have been passed down through generations of family.
If you find yourself traveling throughout these regions, it’s safe to assume that if you have been invited to “dinner”, prepare to have some lunch. If someone offers you “supper”, even at the end of the day, you can be sure you will have a great evening meal and it will be big!
Supper in Ireland and the U.K
The time for supper in Ireland is usually around 10 pm. The older generations usually eat dinner at 6 pm in Ireland and the U.K. For that reason, you might still be hungry before you go to bed and have a slice of toast or bowl of cereal for supper. Supper is almost like breakfast before you go to bed!