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For other uses, see Tiffin (disambiguation).

Tiffin is an Indian English word for a light midday meal (luncheon),[1] When used in place of the word "lunch", it does not necessarily mean a light meal.[2][a]


In the British Raj, where the British custom of afternoon tea was supplanted by the local Indian practice of taking a light meal at that hour, it came to be called tiffin.[4]


Two dabbawalas in Mumbai delivering meals packed in tiffin carriers

In South India and in Nepal, tiffin is generally a snack between meals: dosas, idlis, vadas etc.[5] In other parts of India, such as Mumbai, the word mostly refers to a packed lunch of some sort.[6] In Mumbai, it is often forwarded to them by dabbawalas, sometimes known as tiffin wallahs, who use a complex system to get thousands of tiffin-boxes to their destinations.[7]

Tiffin often consists of rice, dal, curry, vegetables, chapatis or "spicy meats".[8] In addition, the lunch boxes are themselves called tiffin carriers, tiffin-boxes or just tiffins.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ It is derived from English colloquial or slang tiffing meaning to take a little drink, and had by 1867 become naturalised among Anglo-Indians in the north of British India to mean luncheon.[3]
  1. ^ OED staff 2013, "tiffin, n.".
  2. ^ Murray 2008, p. 88.
  3. ^ OED staff 2013, "tiffin, n."cites H. Wedgwood (1862) "Tiffin, now naturalised among Anglo-Indians in the sense of luncheon, is the North country tiffing (properly sipping)". See also Wedgwood 1872, p. 682.
  4. ^ Quinion 2006, Tiffin.
  5. ^ Hughes, Mookherjee & Delacy 2001, p. 25.
  6. ^ Harding 2002.
  7. ^ Thakker 2005.
  8. ^ Murray 2008, pp. 85–108.