Difference Between Dinner and Supper

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Dinner and supper both refer to the primary meal eaten in the evening. Dinner is a formal term often used to refer to eating out. In contrast, supper is less formal and refers to eating at home.   

The terms dinner and supper are often used interchangeably. Let’s clarify the difference between dinner and supper.

What is Dinner?

The word dinner is taken from an old French word, “dinner,” meaning dine or “to break one’s fast.” Though the term has different meanings in different cultures, generally, it refers to the most formal and main meal of the day. It’s eaten around the middle of the day (noontime) or late evening (Western and Midwestern cultures).  

However, Dictionary.com states that dinner isn’t explicitly associated with any particular time of day. Moreover, dinner is another formal term for the meals eaten outside, for example, in a restaurant, at a banquet, etc. Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners are also famous examples of dinner and not supper. 

A dinner generally includes heavy meals, for example, curries, rice, loaves of bread, etc. Because of this, some people consider dinner the to be like a second lunch. Some people choose to include wine or beer with dinner as well.

Difference Between Dinner and Supper
Dinner is a larger meal and typically is more formal.

What is Supper?

The word supper is derived from the French word “souper.” Unlike dinner, supper is typically a light and informal meal taken home. 

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As with dinner, supper has different meanings and timings across cultures. For instance, Saskatchewan and much of Atlantic Canada consider it a day’s main evening meal. 

However, that’s not the case with Americans. According to food historian Helen Zoe Veit, Americans now take supper as an early evening snack, mainly consisting of soups, salads, and other light snacks.

You can’t have supper after dinner. Since dinner is the primary and heavy meal of the day, it would fulfill your day’s food requirements. The best time to have supper is after lunch and a few hours before dinner.

Note: When you host your guests for dinner, the first thing you serve them is usually supper. In Northern England, supper is called “tea.” Learn the story behind how Tea time came to England

Difference Between Dinner and Supper - Supper is less formal.
Supper is less formal and happens at home.

Compare the Differences Between Dinner and Supper

The following table summarizes the differences between supper and dinner. 

Dinner vs Supper
Cannot be skipped Importance Can be skipped
Around midday or late evening Time Of Day Early evening 
Big meal Meal Type Light meal
Formal Formality Informal

Supper vs Dinner – The Key Differences

Here are the critical differences between dinner and supper. 

Time Of Day

The timing of dinner varies across cultures. In most places, it’s consumed around midday or late evening. It also happens to be the last meal of the day. 

Supper, unlike dinner, is considered suitable for an early evening snack. Thus, it’s taken somewhere between lunch and dinner. 

Meal Type

Dinner, the largest meal of the day, is quite heavy and consists of curries, loaves of bread, rice, etc. Supper, in contrast, is always a light evening meal. For example, soups, salads, etc. Formality

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Dinner is always a formal meal, while supper is an informal lighter meal. 


It’s common for most people (in the Midwest) to skip supper after a heavy lunch or due to insufficient time. That’s not the case with dinner, which can’t be neglected. 

Difference Between Dinner and Supper

While breakfast and lunch (or brunch) usually have fixed timings, it’s untrue for dinner and supper. Some areas consider supper the last meal of the day, dinner is considered the late meal in other regions. 

Nevertheless, the formality and meal type don’t change. Dinner is still a formal and heavy meal, while supper continues to be just an early evening snack. What do people around you call their last meal of the day?


Vanessa is passionate about written communication, especially after beginning her career as a middle school English teacher. She’s an experienced content marketer as well. Vanessa loves to analyze, compare, and contrast, which is why she writes for ContrastHub. Besides writing, Vanessa is a wife, mom, entrepreneur, spicy food enthusiast, comedy nerd and lifelong learner.

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