‘Supper' vs 'Dinner: What's the Difference?

By Shanea Patterson, updated on February 1, 2023

Are you going inside to eat ‘supper’ or ‘dinner’? Wondering what the difference is between these two words and which you should use? We’ll cover that in this article, plus teach you how to use both words correctly in a sentence.

In short, the difference between ‘supper’ and ‘dinner’ is:

  • ‘Supper’ is used when the evening meal is an informal one, and it’s going to take place at home.
  • ‘Dinner’ is used when the evening meal is more formal.

They both refer to the main meal of the day, usually eaten in the evening time.

‘Dinner’ vs. ‘Supper’ – Is There a Difference?

As you just learned, there’s a slight difference between ‘dinner’ and ‘supper.’

The former is used when referring to a formal meal, while the latter is used when referring to an informal meal.

Both would take place in the evening.

Are 'Dinner' and 'Supper' the Same Thing? 

According to several sources, ‘dinner’ and ‘supper’ are somewhat similar in meaning, but they have slightly different usages.

What’s interesting is that in the 18th and 19th centuries, Americans ate a light ‘supper’ as their evening meal because they were eating their biggest meal of the day – ‘dinner’ – at noon, according to food historian Helen Zoe Veit.

This was so that farmers could have the strength to get through the rest of the day.

Therefore, ‘supper’ and ‘dinner’ aren’t quite the same thing – even today.

Once Americans stopped working on farms and started working away from home, the main meal was moved to the evening.

Today, the term ‘supper’ is more often used in Southern and Midwestern states.

But most people use the term ‘dinner’ when referring to the most important and filling meal of the day that typically happens in the evening.

Definition and Meaning of ‘Supper’ and ‘Dinner’

The Merriam-Webster definition of ‘supper’ is the evening meal, especially when dinner is taken at midday, the food served as supper, a light meal served in the late evening, and a social affair featuring a supper.

The same dictionary defines ‘dinner’ as the principal meal of the day, a formal feast or banquet, the food prepared for dinner, or a packaged meal, usually for quick preparation.

Synonyms of the word include:

  • Banquet
  • Feast
  • Spread
  • Feed
  • Regale

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce ‘Supper’ and ‘Dinner’

Wondering how to pronounce these two words? Here’s a short guide.

  • To pronounce ‘supper’ correctly, use the phonetic spelling: SUPuh
  • To pronounce ‘dinner’ correctly, use the phonetic spelling: dInUH

How to Use ‘Supper’ and ‘Dinner’ in a Sentence

Now that you know what the words mean and how to pronounce them, let’s see some examples of how to use them in a sentence. We’ll start with ‘supper.’

  • My mom made supper last night, and there were no leftovers. Everyone loved it.
  • My cousins from Texas always say they’re having supper on the patio instead of dinner.
  • I don’t feel like making supper tonight. I wonder if your father would mind making it.
  • We’re going to have a delicious supper tonight. I went to the supermarket and got all the ingredients.

Now, let’s see some examples of how to use ‘dinner.’

  • We were going to go out to eat for dinner tonight. Would you like to join us?
  • I had a big dinner earlier. I just need to lie down for a minute before I burst.
  • I could have gone to Olive Garden for dinner with my co-worker if I knew you didn’t cook.
  • I’m not making dinner this late. You’ll have to fend for yourself.

Final Thoughts on ‘Supper’ and ‘Dinner’

To recap, the slight difference between ‘supper’ and ‘dinner’ is:

  • ‘Supper’ refers to an informal meal, and it usually takes place at home.
  • ‘Dinner’ refers to a more formal meal.

They both describe the main meal of the day, which is typically eaten in the evening.

If you ever get stuck on usage or meaning, you can always come back to refresh your memory. We've got a ton of content dedicated to explaining confusing words and phrases in the English language. Go check it out.

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Written By:
Shanea Patterson
Shanea Patterson is a writer based in New York and loves writing for brands big and small. She has a master's degree in professional writing from New York University and a bachelor's degree in English from Mercy College.

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