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Definition: lunch 1 from Merriam-Webster's Collegiate(R) Dictionary

(1812) 1 : a usu. light meal; esp : one taken in the middle of the day 2 : the food prepared for a lunch — out to lunch slang : out of touch with reality


Summary Article: lunch from Word Origins

When lunch first appeared on the scene, at the end of the 16th century, it was used for a ‘slice or hunk of food’ (‘He shall take bread and cut it into little lunches into a pan with cheese’, Richard Surfleet, Country Farm 1600). It appears to have been borrowed from Spanish lonja ‘slice’. The roughly contemporaneous luncheon, probably just an arbitrary lengthening of lunch, came to be used in the early 17th century for a ‘snack’ (the link with ‘hunk or piece of food’ is obvious), and eventually for a ‘light meal’. Lunch returned to the language in this sense at the beginning of the 19th century, as an abbreviation of luncheon.

© John Ayto 1990, 2005

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