General English

  • noun the main meal of the day, usually eaten in the evening
  • noun a formal evening meal


  • The main meal of the day usually of two or more courses containing meat, fish, cheese or other high protein foods as well as carbohydrates. Served in the evening or around noon, depending on working patterns, region or country, or social class.

Origin & History of “dinner”

The etymological meaning of dinner is ‘breakfast’. The word comes ultimately from an unrecorded vulgar Latin verb *disjūnāre, a compound formed from the prefix dis- ‘un-’ and jējūnus ‘fasting, hungry’ (source of English jejune (17th c.)): hence, ‘break one’s fast’. Old French adopted it in two phases: as desiuner, which became modern French déjeuner (originally ‘breakfast’ but later ‘lunch’), borrowed by English in the 18th century; and as disner. In later Old French this developed into diner (source of English dine (13th c.)), which came to be used as a noun – from which English acquired dinner.

In English it has always denoted the main meal of the day, although the timing of this has varied over the centuries, and continues to do so, according to region, social class, etc.