Supper vs. Dinner – What’s the Difference?

Most people enjoy eating, and even those who don’t enjoy it have to do it for survival. English speakers have many words for meals, including breakfast, second breakfast, elevenses, brunch, lunch, luncheon, afternoon tea, dinner, and supper.

Still, many people don’t know the difference between dinner and supper, or even that there is a difference between these terms. Luckily, intrepid writers like yourself have resources like this site to help you with confusing words.

What is the Difference Between Supper and Dinner?

In this article, I will compare supper vs. dinner. I will use both of these words in example sentences, so you can see them in context.

I will also show you a memory tool you can use to determine whether to choose supper or dinner next time you are describing a delicious family meal.

When to Use Dinner

supper versus dinner meaningWhat does dinner mean? Dinner is a noun. It can either refer to the largest meal of the day or a gathering of people at a formal event that features a meal.

Here are some examples,

  • My speech at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner was universally regarded as a smashing success.
  • I made my wife baked Alaskan salmon for dinner, but she did not like it.
  • Last time I went to a steakhouse for dinner, I got food poisoning.
  • The best way I’ve found to improve upon dinner has nothing to do with butter. It doesn’t involve a generous glug of cream, or even a few slabs of bacon. –The Washington Post

When is dinner? Dinner refers to the size of the meal, not the time it is eaten. In many Western cultures, the largest meal is eaten in the evening. At other times throughout history, however, dinner was eaten in the middle of the day, or during the afternoon.

See also diner vs. dinner.

When to Use Supper

Definition of dinner definition and definition of supper definitionWhat does supper mean? Supper usually refers to a lighter meal eaten in the evening. The term has its roots in farming traditions, when a large meal would be eaten around noon, followed by a lighter meal in the evening, often consisting of a soup.

Here are some examples of the word supper in sentences,

  • Mama called the boys in from the fields for supper.
  • Jojo would eat 50 suppers a day if his mother would let him.
  • Supper was good, but I am still hungry.
  • A Sunday supper is about much more than the meal. The requisite calm and cozy atmosphere that makes for quality family time can be complicated to achieve. –The Wall Street Journal

When is supper? Unlike dinner, which doesn’t necessarily refer to a time, supper is a meal eaten in the evening.

Trick to Remember the Difference

Define dinner and define supperHere is a helpful tip to remember dinner vs. supper.

Today, in the United States, many families use supper and dinner interchangeably to refer to a large evening meal. Traditionally, though, dinner refers to the largest meal of the day, regardless of timing, and supper is a lighter meal eaten in the evening.

Tradition aside, today supper is a less formal term, so you will want to use dinner to describe an evening meal in academic or professional writing. Since dinner is spelled with a D, like the word tremendous, you should find it easy to remember that dinner describes a tremendous meal, no matter when you eat it.

Summary

Is it supper or dinner? Supper and dinner are both nouns that refer to meals.

  • Supper traditionally means a light meal eaten in the evening.
  • Dinner means the largest meal of the day, whenever it is eaten.
  • A dinner can also mean a formal gathering around food.

Today, the words are often used as synonyms. Still, dinner is more formal, and you should use it to refer to evening meals in formal writing. Dinner and tremendous both contain the letter D, making it easy to think of dinner as a tremendous meal.

Remember, you can always check this site for a quick refresher on whether dinner or supper is the meal about which you are writing.