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Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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Supper is the usual term for the final meal of the day. There are few subjects more vexed than what you call such-and-such a meal and for discussion of them each in turn see breakfast, dinner, elevenses, merenda, afternoon tea, high tea, meals, and mealtimes.

The word ultimately derives from a Germanic root for ‘sop’, pieces of bread soaked in broth or liquid before eating. Thence also comes soup. The French have the same set of words. Sop is the earliest word in English usage; supper comes next (the first citation in the OED being c.1300); and soup much later (1653).