According to tradition, Jews had two meals daily, one in the morning, and one in the afternoon. Note, having no electricity, an afternoon meal is much easier to prepare.
However for the Sabbath when no-one worked, a main meal was prepared for the evening, after sundown, the start of the sabbath. There was then a second main meal at lunchtime, followed by a third meal that was often somewhat smaller, in the afternoon.

Rome and Greece and worldwide

The main meal (for soldiers) was apparently in the morning (prandium) when you woke up at the start of the day. But when food was scarce in winter time, one meal (around 3pm) at the ninth hour of the day was common, particularly in England. Two meals were then normal in summer, becoming three meals a day worldwide, all year round, since around the 1500-1600s.

Elsewhere, in China and India (nearly 3 billion people), three meals a day has become the norm for 94-95% of their population. In Nigeria, the largest country in Africa's over one billion people, it is now normal to have a light meal upon waking, and two main meals, at lunchtime and in the evening. Still, poverty is everywhere, in some countries more so than others, with an estimated 22% of children younger than five 'stunted' – significantly shorter than the average for their age as a consequence of poor nutrition or repeated infection.

Words used for meal times in the West


Greek: Proino Gevma (morning meal)
French: le petit déjeuner (little de-zhunay) from the Latin words dis (undo) and ieiunus, jejune (hungry, empty)
Spanish: desayuno
Portuguese: In Brazil café da manhã, meaning morning coffee. In Portugal pequeno-almoço, meaning little lunch
German: Früh-stück (early piece)
Italian: colazione (collation - light meal)


Greek: Mesimerianó (Midday meal)
French: Déjeuner (de-zhunay)
Spanish: comida (comestible - meal)
Portuguese: almoço
German: Mittag-essen (midday meal)
Italian: pranzo (Latin prandium - morning meal)

Dinner, Supper

Greek: Deipno
French: Diner (dee-nay) Souper (soo-pay)
Spanish: cena (che-nah) possibly from a word meaning "cut" (into portions)
Portuguese: jantar
German: Abend-essen (evening meal)
Italian: cena (che-nah)


Meal is thought to be derived from the word "measure" i.e. measured out.

Breakfast, a word that came into use in England from 1450, similar to an early Dutch word breekvasten (no longer used).
In Old English, "undern" - similar to "under" and perhaps "ante", was a light meal consumed at the third hour 9am.

Non or None or Noon, from the Latin word for nine, was a main meal in England consumed at the ninth hour i.e. 3pm.
From 1100-1300 in English monasteries, the meaning of "noon" was wound back to be equivalent to midday.

Nuncheon developed as a midday "noon" cup or draught, also called "Luncheon" or "Lunch", a light midday meal.

Tea and Afternoon Tea developed in the 1700s, with meals based around cups of tea (from China). 

Dinner and Supper come directly from the French words "Diner" and "Souper" (bread dipped in soup).

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