Lunch, Dinner, Supper or Tea? The confusion of mealtime terminology in the UK

Lunch, Dinner, Supper or Tea? The confusion of mealtime terminology in the UK

“I’d like to invite you for tea next week, or would you prefer supper? Oh, but I will be eating quite a large dinner that day so perhaps next week would be better…”

Have you ever felt confused by the various terms used for mealtimes in the UK? Or, even worse, arrived at someone’s house to be served a meal which was completely different to what you expected?

If so, you are not alone! We are a strange culture in that respect as we have various terms for mealtimes, and so the purpose of this article is to educate you on the CORRECT terminology, but also make you aware of alternative phrases so that you are, hopefully, able to interpret them and thus avoid any surprises!

Let’s begin with the correct terminology:

  • 8am Breakfast
  • 11am Brunch
  • 1pm Luncheon
  • 3.30pm Afternoon Tea
  • 6.00pm High Tea or Supper
  • 8.00pm Dinner or Supper
  • 9.30pm Supper

(It’s important to note that we don’t enjoy all of these meals every day!)

But what you may hear are the following terms:

  • 1pm Dinner Time
  • 6pm Tea
  • 8pm Tea

Why? Well the reason dates back to many years ago, when traditionally the northern part of the UK was home to the industrial cities, where many people worked in factories.

It was common during that period of time for employees to be offered a large meal at 1pm, and so this quickly became known as ‘dinner time’ as it became the largest meal of the day.

However, when the workers returned home, they would enjoy a lighter meal of breads, muffins etc. and this was known as ‘High Tea’.

Many people in the UK do still call their luncheon ‘dinner’, and their dinner ‘tea’, and now you understand why!