meal

Definitions

General English

Agriculture

  • noun a finely ground compound feedingstuff for poultry and pigs, containing all the elements necessary for good health and steady growth

Food

  • Any combination of foods eaten at a single sitting
  • The ground edible parts of any grain, seed, nut, etc. usually coarser than flour. The word is often added to the end of the seed’s name, e.g. wheatmeal, oatmeal, cornmeal.

Travel

  • noun food eaten at a particular time of day

Origin & History of “meal”

Meal ‘repast’ and meal ‘flour’ are two distinct words. The former originally meant ‘measure’: it goes back via prehistoric Germanic *mǣlaz (source of German mal ‘time, occasion’ and mahl ‘meal’, Dutch maal ‘time, meal’, and Swedish mål ‘meal’) to the Indo-European base *me- ‘measure’, which is also the ancestor of English measure. The semantic progression from ‘measure’ (which died out for meal in the middle English period, but survives in the compound piecemeal (13th c.), etymologically ‘measured piece by piece’) to ‘repast’ was via ‘measured or fixed time’ (hence the meaning ‘time, occasion’ in many of the related Germanic forms) and ‘time fixed for eating’.

Meal ‘flour’ (as in oatmeal) goes back ultimately to Indo-European *mel-, *mol-, *ml- ‘grind’, source of a wide range of other English words from mild and mill to molar and mould. From it was descended west and north Germanic *melwam, which has differentiated to German mehl, Dutch meel, Swedish mjōl, Danish mel, and English meal. It has been speculated that mellow (15th c.) may have originated in the use of Old English melu ‘meal’ as an adjective, in the sense ‘soft and rich like flour’.
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