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Supper is the main evening meal (sometimes used to describe a light snack later in the evening).
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The term is derived from the French souper, which is used for this meal in Canadian French, Swiss French, and sometimes in Belgian French. It is related to soup. It is also related to the Scandinavian word for soup, soppa' and the German word for soup, Suppe. The Oxford English Dictionary, however, suggests that the root, sup, remains obscure in origin.
The distinction between dinner and supper was common in United States farming communities into the twentieth century, especially in the Mid-West and the American South, though today, most Americans consider the two synonyms and strongly prefer the term dinner for the evening meal. During World War II, rations in the U.S. military were still divided into breakfast, dinner, and supper, using the traditional designations for meals. In most parts of the United States and Canada today, "supper" and "dinner" are considered synonyms (although supper is a more antiquated term). In Saskatchewan, and much of Atlantic Canada, "supper" means the main meal of the day, usually served in the late afternoon, while "dinner" is served around noon. "Dinner" is used in some areas, such as Newfoundland and Labrador, to describe the noon meal as well as special meals, such as "Thanksgiving dinner", "flipper dinner" or "Christmas dinner," the evening meal being "supper." The word "supper" is also regionally reserved for harvest meals put on by churches and other community organizations: "fowl suppers" or "fall suppers" (featuring turkey) are common in Canada; "pancake suppers" given by church groups were once a tradition in the United States; and "bean suppers" (featuring baked beans) were traditional in New England and especially the state of Maine.
"Supper" may refer to, on largely class-based distinctions, either a late-evening snack (working and middle class usage) or else to make a distinction between "supper" as an informal family meal (which would be eaten in the kitchen or family dining room) as opposed to "dinner", a generally grander affair (either or both in terms of the meal and the courses within the meal itself), which would be eaten in the best dining room, could well have guests from outside the household, and for which there might be a dress code.
- "Oxford English Dictionary". Oxford University Press. Retrieved May 17, 2012.
- "Wedding Supper". www.google.com. Retrieved 2015. Check date values in:
- "Research – Foodways Research: A Taste of Maine". The University of Maine Folklife Center. Retrieved September 8, 2013.
- Post, Emily (1945). Etiquette: the blue book of social usage (10th ed.). Funk & Wagnalls. p. 375.