What is Supper? | And other strange terms in the UK

what is supper


What is Supper? | And other strange meal terms in the UK

“What is supper, Emma?” This is a question that comes up regularly in my Elegant Dining and Exquisite Entertaining Courses, followed closely by, “Is the midday meal lunch or dinner?”

Have you also ever been 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 from what you expected?

If so, you are not alone! We are a strange culture in that respect as we have various terms for mealtimes. 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

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

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



But you may hear the following terms instead:

But what you may hear are the following terms:

  • 1 PM Dinner
  • 6 PM Tea
  • 8 PM Tea



What are the reasons for these different terms?

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 for employees to be offered a large meal at 1 PM, and so this quickly became known as ‘dinner time’ as it became the largest meal of the day, hence why lunch or dinner are used interchangeably.

However, when the workers returned home, they would enjoy a lighter meal of slices of bread, 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!



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