Did you know ‘dinner’ once meant “breakfast”?

Joanna Yeo
12 November 2012

Text by Joanna Yeo @ Makansutra.

Did you know ‘dinner’ once meant “breakfast”?
Did you know ‘dinner’ once meant “breakfast”?

If you think three meals a day isn’t enough to keep your hunger pangs at bay, you probably would not have survived through the 16th Century when having only two meals a day was the norm.

The first meal, “dinner” was eaten at around 11am and later followed by supper in the evening, as recorded by literary evidences in the 16th Century. According to these evidences, in certain parts of Europe such as Spain, Venice and Genoa, “dinner”was a light meal while supper is a heavier one. For the rest of Europe, it was the opposite.

It must be pretty confusing why dinner is eaten as the first meal of the day. To understand this, we trace back to the ambiguity of word ‘dinner’ itself, which literally meant breakfast. Deriving from the Vulgar Latin word ‘disjunare ’, which formed by compounding ‘dis’, a prefix which means not and ‘jejunium’ which means fast or hungry period. When put together, ‘disjunare’ would mean to ‘stop being hungry’ or ‘break a fast’.

Dinnertime gradually shifted and was held later and later in the day. By the late 18th Century, it had possibly shifted to as late as 4 or 5pm. It is only in recent times that dinner has come to mean a meal in the evening, and supper became less important. Consequently, this led to the invention of a new meal that we now know as ‘lunch’.

The origin of the breakfast (the meal that we now eat in the morning) is relatively unclear as evidences are elusive. What is clear is that as dinner was consumed later in the day, people were becoming hungrier in the morning. This was especially so for countries where the evening meal is light one.

In Southern Europe, breakfast, consisting of coffee and a pastry was still not considered a proper meal. This continued till the 18th Century, where it was still eaten at around 9am or 10 am. In the 19th Century that breakfast evolved to a more sumptuous meal of bacon, eggs and even steaks.

And thus, came about the three-meal-a-day pattern that we are all familiar with today.

References: Food in Early Modern Europe By Ken Albala Cupboard Love, 2nd Ed.: A Dictionary of Culinary Curiosities By Mark Morton

Starwood Credit Card

Earn 25,000 Bonus Starpoints®! Use toward Award Nights or Flights.

How To Make Sagging Skin Look Tight and Lifted

[Watch] The easy and effective way consumers across the country are improving the look of their wrinkled and sagging skin without cosmetic procedures.

Bruce Lee's movies restored for HKIFF

10 Cards for People Who Have Great Credit

What card offers up to 5% cash back? And which one offers 24/7 concierge service? See the best credit cards of 2016. Apply online, quickly & easily.

Chow Yun Fat: Carol Cheng is still number one

Heartburn Symptoms

Common Symptoms of Heartburn Include Burping and Bloating. Learn More About the Common and Uncommon Heartburn Symptoms You Might Be Experiencing.

Bad News For Insurance, Great News For Virginia

Virginia drivers, with cars and good driving records are learning that they may qualify for lower car insurance rates. Do you qualify?

Powerful Tactical Flashlight Flying Off Shelves!

This new tactical flashlight was just released to the public and is flying off shelves in the United States. Limited supplies left, act quick!

How Older Men Tighten Their Skin

Men, reduce the look of wrinkles, sagging skin and fine lines with this affordable and effective skin tightening treatment without leaving your home.

"K9 Cop" stars not worried about ratings

Celebrities donate to relief efforts after Taiwan earthquake

Read This Before You Buy Medigap Plan F

Plan F is the most popular Medicare Supplement plan, but there's another Medigap option you should consider.

Banks Are Worried Homeowners Will Do This.

Homeowners are surprised and furious. If you owe less than $625,000 on your home, you better read this.

Kid sleep troubles email series for moms

We get it. We’ve been there. Sign up for our email track to learn how to handle kids who won’t go to sleep or won’t stay in bed.

VA Mortgage Rates In 2016

VA Rates as Low as 2.75% (3.028% APR) 15 Year Fixed. Exclusive For Veteran & Military Takes 1 Min!

Free Samples Sites- Why You Should Pay Attention

Sign up now for freebies so good you will feel guilty not paying for them! No credit card or purchase necessary.

Tracy Ip hints at pregnancy

Insane Navy Seal Flashlight, should it be banned?

The Military has recently released technology that is now available to the public. Get yours before they run out - Limited Supply!

What Has Been The 2015 Best Skin Tighteners ?

Women everywhere are saving thousands of dollars on plastic surgery by reducing the appearance of wrinkles from the comfort of their own home.