A meal is an eating occasion that takes place at a certain time and includes specific, prepared food, or the food eaten on that occasion. The names used for specific meals in English varies greatly depending on the speaker's culture, the time of day, or the size of the meal.
Meals occur primarily at homes, restaurants, and cafeterias, but may occur anywhere. Regular meals occur on a daily basis, typically several times a day. Special meals are usually held in conjunction with such occasions as birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, and holidays. A meal is different from a snack in that meals are generally larger, more varied, and more filling than snacks.
The type of meal served or eaten at any given time varies by custom and location. Further, the names of meals are often interchangeable by custom as well. Some serve dinner as the main meal at midday, with supper as the late afternoon/early evening meal; while others may call their midday meal lunch and their early evening meal supper. Except for "breakfast", these names can vary from region to region or even from family to family.
Breakfast is eaten within an hour or two after a person wakes in the morning.
Lunch or dinner is eaten around mid-day, usually between 11 am and 2 pm. In some areas, the name for this meal depends on its content.
Supper or dinner is eaten in the evening. In some areas, the name for this meal depends on its content, but many English-speakers use "dinner" for this meal regardless of size.
Afternoon tea is a mid-afternoon meal, typically taken at 4 pm, consisting of light fare such as small sandwiches, individual cakes and scones with tea.
High tea is a British meal usually eaten in the early evening.
Last meal is a meal served to a prisoner before his execution.
A multi-course meal is a meal of multiple dishes served in sequence, generally eaten only in the most formal contexts.
A picnic is an outdoor meal where one brings one's food, such as a sandwich or a prepared meal (sometimes in a picnic basket). It often takes place in a natural or recreational area, such as a park, forest, beach, or lawn. On long drives a picnic may take place at a roadside stop such as a rest area.
A banquet is a large, formal, elaborate meal, with many guests and dishes.