Tiffin is an Indian English word for a type of meal. It refers to a light tea-time meal at about 3pm, or to a light breakfast consisting of typical tea-time foods. In certain parts of India, it can also refer to the midday luncheon or, in some regions of the Indian subcontinent, a between-meal snack. When used in place of the word "lunch", however, it does not necessarily mean a light meal.
In the British Raj, tiffin was used to denote the British custom of afternoon tea that had been supplanted by the Indian practice of having a light meal at that hour. It is derived from "tiffing", an English colloquial term meaning to take a little drink. By 1867 it had become naturalised among Anglo-Indians in northern British India to mean luncheon.
In South India and in Nepal, tiffin is generally a snack between meals: dosas, idlis, vadas etc. In other parts of India, such as Mumbai, the word mostly refers to a packed lunch of some sort. In Mumbai, it is often delivered to them by dabbawalas, sometimes known as tiffin wallahs, who use a complex system to get thousands of tiffin carriers to their destinations. In Mumbai, a school-going child's lunch box is fondly called a tiffin box.
- Purnachand, G V. "History of Traditional Telugu Food Culture: A new interpretation". Dr. G. V. Purnachand, B.A.M.S. Dr. G V Purnachand, B.A.M.S. Retrieved 28 July 2017.
- OED staff 2013, "tiffin, n.".
- Murray 2008, p. 88.
- Quinion 2006, Tiffin.
- OED staff 2013, "tiffin, n."cites H. Wedgwood (1862) "Tiffin, now naturalised among Anglo-Indians in the sense of luncheon, is the North country tiffing (properly sipping)". See also Wedgwood 1872, p. 682.
- Hughes, Mookherjee & Delacy 2001, p. 25.
- Harding 2002.
- Thakker 2005.
- Murray 2008, pp. 85–108.
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- Harding, Luke (29 October 2002), "A Bombay lunchbox", The Guardian
- Hughes, Martin; Mookherjee, Sheema; Delacy, Richard (2001), India (illustrated ed.), Lonely Planet, p. 25, ISBN 978-1-86450-328-9
- Murray, Sarah (2008), Moveable Feasts: From Ancient Rome to the 21st Century, the Incredible Journeys of the Food We Eat (illustrated ed.), Macmillan, pp. 85–108, ISBN 978-0-312-42814-3
- OED staff (2013), "tiffin, n.", Oxford English Dictionary (online ed.), Oxford University
- Quinion, Michael (2 September 2006) , World Wide Words: Tiffin, worldwidewords.org
- Thakker, Pradip (11 November 2005), Bombay's amazing dabbawalas, archived from the original on 9 February 2008
- Wedgwood, H. (1872), A Dictionary of English Etymology (second ed.), p. 682