Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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Tiffin an Anglo-Indian term used in India for lunch or a light snack in the middle of the day or in the afternoon.

The word, which is not recorded in Indian usage until the beginning of the 19th century, may have its origin in a colloquial English word, tiffing, which according to Grose’s dictionary of 1785 meant ‘eating or drinking out of meal-times’. Yule and Burnell (Hobson-Jobson, 1979), who have a particularly full and charming entry in their dictionary, seem to think so and provide a wealth of examples of use of the term in the 19th century. These are well chosen to illustrate the flexibility in timing of this ‘slight repast’.