Definition of meal noun from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary



    BrE BrE//miːl//
    ; NAmE NAmE//miːl//
    Carbohydrates, Types of meal, Crops
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  1. 1  [countable] an occasion when people sit down to eat food, especially breakfast, lunch or dinner Try not to eat between meals. Lunch is his main meal of the day. (especially British English) to go out for a meal (= to go to a restaurant to have a meal) What time would you like your evening meal? More Aboutmeals People use the words dinner, lunch, supper and tea in different ways depending on which English-speaking country they come from. In Britain it may also depend on which part of the country or which social class a person comes from. A meal eaten in the middle of the day is usually called lunch. If it is the main meal of the day it may also be called dinner in British English, especially in the north of the country. A main meal eaten in the evening is usually called dinner, especially if it is a formal meal. Supper is also an evening meal, but more informal than dinner and usually eaten at home. It can also be a late meal or something to eat and drink before going to bed. In British English, tea is a light meal in the afternoon with sandwiches, cakes, etc. and a cup of tea:a cream tea. It can also be a main meal eaten early in the evening, especially by children:What time do the kids have their tea? As a general rule, if dinner is the word someone uses for the meal in the middle of the day, they probably call the meal in the evening tea or supper. If they call the meal in the middle of the day lunch, they probably call the meal in the evening dinner. Brunch, a combination of breakfast and lunch, is becoming more common, especially as a meal where your guests serve themselves. Wordfinderbinge, calorie, diet, digest, eat, fattening, food, meal, restaurant, taste CollocationsRestaurantsEating out eat (lunch/​dinner)/dine/​meet at/​in a restaurant go (out)/take somebody (out) for lunch/​dinner/​a meal have a meal with somebody make/​have a reservation (in/​under the name of Yamada) reserve/ (especially British English) book a table for six ask for/​request a table for two/​a table by the windowIn the restaurant wait to be seated show somebody to their table sit in the corner/​by the window/​at the bar/​at the counter hand somebody/​give somebody the menu/​wine list open/​read/​study/​peruse the menu the restaurant has a three-course set menu/​a children’s menu/​an extensive wine list taste/​sample/​try the wine the waiter takes your order order/​choose/​have the soup of the day/​one of the specials/​the house (British English) speciality/(especially North American English) specialty serve/​finish the first course/​the starter/​the main course/​dessert/​coffee complain about the food/​the service/​your meal enjoy your mealPaying pay/​ask for (especially British English) the bill/(North American English) the check pay for/​treat somebody to dinner/​lunch/​the meal service is (not) included give somebody/​leave (somebody) a tip CulturemealsAmericans and British people generally eat three meals a day though the names vary according to people's lifestyles and where they live.The first meal of the day is breakfast. The traditional full English breakfast served in many British hotels may include fruit juice, cereal (= a food made from processed grains and eaten with milk), bacon and eggs, often with sausages and tomatoes, toast (= slices of bread cooked until they turn brown) and marmalade (= jam made with oranges and similar fruit), and tea or coffee. Few people have time to prepare a cooked breakfast at home and most have only cereal and/​or toast with tea or coffee. Others buy coffee and a pastry on their way to work.The traditional American breakfast includes eggs, some kind of meat and toast. Eggs may be fried, ‘over easy’, ‘over hard’ or ‘sunny side up’, or boiled, poached or in an omelette (= beaten together and fried). The meat may be bacon or sausage. People who do not have time for a large meal have toast or cereal and coffee. It is common for Americans to eat breakfast in a restaurant. On Saturday and Sunday many people eat brunch late in the morning. This consists of both breakfast and lunch dishes, including pancakes and waffles (= types of cooked batter) that are eaten with butter and maple syrup (= a sweet, sticky sauce produced from a type of maple tree).Lunch, which is eaten any time after midday, is the main meal of the day for some British people, though people out at work may have only sandwiches. Some people also refer to the midday meal as dinner. Most workers are allowed about an hour off work for it, called the lunch hour, and many also go shopping. Many schools offer a cooked lunch (school lunch or school dinner), though some students take a packed lunch of sandwiches, fruit, etc. Sunday lunch is special and is, for many families, the biggest meal of the week, consisting traditionally of roast meat and vegetables and a sweet course. In the US lunch is usually a quick meal, eaten around midday. Many workers have a half-hour break for lunch, and buy a sandwich from near their place of work. Business people may sometimes eat a larger lunch and use the time to discuss business.The main meal of the day for most people is the evening meal, called supper, tea or dinner. It is usually a cooked meal with meat or fish or a salad, followed by a sweet course. In Britain younger children may have tea when they get home from school. Tea, meaning a main meal for adults, is the word used in some parts of Britain especially when the evening meal is eaten early. Dinner sounds more formal than supper, and guests generally receive invitations to ‘dinner’ rather than to ‘supper’. In the US the evening meal is called dinner and is usually eaten around 6 or 6.30 p.m. In many families, both in Britain and in the US, family members eat at different times and rarely sit down at the table together.Many people also eat snacks between meals. Most have tea or coffee at mid-morning, often called coffee time or the coffee break. In Britain in the past this was sometimes also called elevenses. In the afternoon many British people have a tea break. Some hotels serve afternoon tea which consists of tea or coffee and a choice of sandwiches and cakes. When on holiday/​vacation people sometimes have a cream tea of scones, jam and cream. In addition many people eat chocolate bars, biscuits (AmE cookies) or crisps (AmE chips). Some British people have a snack, sometimes called supper, consisting of a milk drink and a biscuit before they go to bed. In the US children often have milk and cookies after school. See related entries: Types of meal
  2. 2  [countable] the food that is eaten at a meal Enjoy your meal. a three-course meal See related entries: Types of meal
  3. 3 [uncountable] (often in compounds) grain that has been crushed to produce a powder, used as food for animals and for making flour See related entries: Carbohydrates, Crops
  4. see also bonemeal, oatmeal, wholemeal
    Word Originnoun senses 1 to 2 Old English mǣl (also in the sense ‘measure’, surviving in words such as piecemeal ‘measure taken at one time’), of Germanic origin. The early sense of meal involved a notion of “fixed time”; compare with Dutch maal ‘meal, (portion of) time’ and German Mal ‘time’, Mahl ‘meal’, from an Indo-European root meaning ‘to measure’.noun sense 3 Old English melu, meolo, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch meel and German Mehl, from an Indo-European root shared by Latin molere ‘to grind’.Extra examples Hot meals are not available after 10 o’clock. I always want to go to sleep after a heavy meal. I’m so busy I have to snatch meals when I can. Let’s go out for a meal. She hadn’t had a square meal for days. She has very little time to prepare home-cooked meals. Thanks for a delicious meal. That night he made her favourite/​favorite meal. The bar serves light meals. The family was always noisy at meal times. We’re going out for a meal. When do you have your main meal of the day? a meagre meal of bread and cheese He looks like he hasn’t had a square meal for days. She took me out for a slap-up meal. They gave us a three-course meal.Idioms
    make a meal of something
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    (informal) to spend a lot of time, energy, etc. doing something in a way that other people think is unnecessary and/or annoying Why do you have to make such a meal of everything?
    a good, satisfying meal He looks as though he hasn't had a square meal for weeks.
See the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary entry: meal