Supper vs. Dinner: Are They Different & Which States Use Each

Supper vs Dinner

Supper vs. Dinner: Are They Different & Which States Use Each

While dinner may be a word most people recognize as the largest meal of the day, it’s not the only word to describe an evening meal. One example of this is supper vs. dinner. Some parts of the country use the word supper while others use the word dinner, but you may have wondered if they are simply different ways to describe the same meal.

Even though dinner and supper are sometimes used interchangeably, they don’t necessarily refer to the same type of meal. Supper usually means a lighter meal that is more informal than dinner. On the other hand, dinner refers to the main meal of the day and is a term that’s universally recognized.

If you’re curious about the difference between supper vs dinner, keep reading. You’ll find out how they’re different as well as which parts of the country use each term.

Happy couple passing food while having family lunch in dining room.
Supper and dinner can often represent two different types of meals, depending on the family.

©Drazen Zigic/Shutterstock.com

Supper vs. Dinner: What Is the Difference?

There are numerous ways to describe meals throughout the day, especially when you travel to different parts of the country. Two of the most well-known terms for an evening meal are supper and dinner. While some think that supper is simply a different way to say dinner, it describes a different type of meal in many cases.

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The main difference between supper and dinner is supper describes a lighter meal, commonly one that includes soup. It’s no surprise that the word supper is also related to the word suppe, which is the German word for soup. You can use both supper and dinner to describe a meal that takes place in the evening, but they can’t always be used interchangeably.

Dinner describes the main meal of the day. For most people, the largest meal is the one at the end of the day, but that wasn’t always the case throughout history. The largest meal used to be at midday before most people started working outside of the home.

Supper describes either a lighter meal served in the evening or it describes the evening meal when dinner was served earlier in the day. 

Generally, the two distinguishing factors between supper and dinner are the time that the meal takes place and how light or heavy the meal is. In most places that use the word supper, it describes a lighter meal that takes place in the evening. If both dinner and supper are used, dinner is the larger meal while supper includes snack-like foods or a light meal like soup.

Even still, supper isn’t used at all in many parts of the country and dinner is the more common term that’s used universally.

What Is Supper?

Depending on where you’re located in the United States or even across the globe, you may have supper as one of your meals, or it may be a term you’ve heard of but have never actually used.

In the places where supper describes an evening meal, it generally refers to a light meal that takes place after dinner or lunch. Compared to dinner, it’s smaller and less formal.

In the past, people used the word supper to describe a lighter meal at the end of the day because the largest meal of the day took place around noon.

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This was especially true for those who worked long hours during the day and didn’t have time to eat three full meals. It also applied to those who lived on a farm and worked out of their homes. This was incredibly common for Americans prior to the Industrial Revolution. In pre-industrial times, many workers would enjoy their largest meal at midday with their family and have a lighter meal, known as supper, later in the evening. 

What Time is Supper?

What distinguishes supper as a meal isn’t necessarily the time of day, although supper describes an evening meal in most places. However, there isn’t a designated time for all families to have supper and it could take place at any time throughout the evening. Traditionally, supper would be at the end of the workday, and each family may have their own traditions regarding the time and food served. 

Friends having a pasta dinner at home of at a restaurant.
Unlike supper, dinner is usually a heavier meal and is often the largest meal of the day.


What Is Dinner?

Dinner refers to the last and generally largest meal of the day. It can take place in the evening or at night-time, depending on the culture and the preferences of each family.

In certain parts of the country, dinner refers to the largest meal of the day and it takes place in the evening or nighttime. However, the technical definition of the word dinner states that it’s the main meal of the day. This means that if you eat your largest meal around noon, it would be considered your dinner.

Nowadays, most people use dinner to refer to the last and largest meal of the day. But many writings from different time periods show that when people used the words dinner and supper, dinner was a larger meal that took place earlier in the day while supper was a lighter meal at the end of the day.

Overall, dinner is the term that’s most universal, and what supper means can vary depending on who you’re asking.

What Time is Dinner?

For most people who only use the term dinner, it’s the last meal of the day and it may take place anytime between 5 pm and 10 pm. This will often depend on the preferences of each person as well as their work schedule. 

There isn’t a universal time for dinner. However, when the term dinner describes the evening meal, it's referring to a meal in the late afternoon, evening, or nighttime that is the largest meal of the day. Even though this wasn’t always the meaning of dinner, this is how most people use the term dinner nowadays, especially in regions where the term supper may be foreign.

Which States Use Supper?

Depending on where you live, you might have grown up with your parents or grandparents shouting that supper was ready, or you may have only heard the term in TV shows or movies. No matter which group you’re in, supper is still a common term in many places, although it’s not as common in the modern world.

There isn’t a specific list of states or regions that use the term supper, especially because it can vary widely depending on the region and culture. But we do know that people in the South and in the Midwest use the word more often. The use of the word supper started to decline in the 1900s, especially as more people were away from home all day for work and weren’t able to eat a family meal in the middle of the day.

If your family members did use the term supper, it’s possible that this is because you had farmers in your family. Supper became popular because most farmers would have their largest meal, known as lunch or dinner, in the middle of the day, and then would have a smaller, lighter meal in the evening, known as supper.

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Are Supper and Dinner the Same?

Infographic comparing supper and dinner.
Supper and dinner are different even though they are sometimes used interchangeably.

Even in the South, the term supper isn’t as common anymore. Based on the technical definition of the word supper, it’s not the same as dinner, but nowadays many do use it as another word to describe dinner.

One of the other distinguishing factors is that supper often refers specifically to a homecooked meal while dinner might be referring to a meal you eat at a restaurant. No matter what you or your family call it, eating a homecooked meal with family or loved ones is still an essential part of family bonding within every household.

Supper Recipes

Dinner Recipes

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Flaky Creamy Chicken Pot Pie Recipe

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  • Author: MomsWhoThink.com
  • Total Time: 75 Minutes


Chicken pot pie is one of the best types of comfort food. Warm and creamy, it fills your tummy and leaves you feeling satisfied. Best of all, it’s guaranteed that your family will love it.


Units Scale
  • 1 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 5 cups chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon ground dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon minced parsley (fresh)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 2 recipes of pastry for a double crust (recipe below)
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted


  1. Heat oven to 400° degrees F, place oven rack in middle position.
  2. Place chicken and broth in a stock pot over medium heat. Cover, bring to a simmer and simmer until the chicken is done (about 10 min.)
  3. Transfer the chicken to a large bowl; reserve the broth in a separate cup or small bowl. Cut the chicken meat into bite-sized pieces and return to bowl.
  4. In a large saucepan over medium high heat, stir together the ¾ cup butter and the flour for five minutes until smooth.
  5. Slowly whisk in the chicken broth, continuing to stir until the sauce is smooth and thickens. Add the poultry seasoning, thyme, parsley, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and pepper.
  6. In a separate large skillet, warm the remaining 3 Tablespoons butter, add the carrots, onions, and celery and sauté 8 to 10 minutes, or until softened.
  7. Add the sautéed vegetables and peas to the sauce and place in a large bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on top of the sauce and refrigerate to cool completely.
  8. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a 9×13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
  9. Roll out the pastry dough and line the bottom and sides of the baking dish with one of the pie crust recipe.
  10. Line the pastry with aluminum foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans and bake for 15 minutes.
  11. Remove the crust from the oven and remove the pie weights and aluminum foil.
  12. Add the reserved the chicken to the vegetable mixture and pour into the prepared crust. Cover with the other pie crust recipe. Pinch together the edges of the top and bottom crust. Cut a slit in the center of the pie.
  13. Combine the melted ¼ cup butter and the remaining 1 teaspoons salt. Brush on top of the pastry and place in the oven.
  14. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350° F and continue baking for 30 more minutes or until the crust is lightly browned.
  15. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.
  • Prep Time: 30 Minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 Minutes
  • Category: Main Course
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: British
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