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Lunch is a meal that is taken at noon or in the early afternoon. The term is short for "luncheon" (see below). Lunch is a newer word for what invariably used to be called "dinner," a word nowadays only sometimes used to mean a noontime meal in the British Isles, and in parts of the United States, Canada and Australia. In British schools female staff who serve lunch are often known as "dinner ladies", but never "lunch ladies". In parts of India a light lunch is known as tiffin. In the nineteenth century, male artisans went home for dinner, where their wives fed them; ladies, whose husbands would eat at the club, would be free to leave the house and have lunch with one another in restaurants - hence the disparaging phrase, "the ladies who lunch."

Lunch food varies. In some places, one eats similar things both at lunch and at supper - a hot meal, sometimes with more than one course. In other places, lunch is the main meal of the day, supper being a smaller cold meal.

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Two street vendors taking time out for lunch at a makeshift table of wooden crates covered with newspaper. New York, August 1946.

Many people eat lunch while at work or school. Employers and schools usually provide a lunch break in the middle of the day, lasting as much as an hour. Some workplaces and schools provide cafeterias where one can get a hot meal. In some work locations one can easily go out to eat at a nearby restaurant. Where these conveniences are not available it may be impractical to make lunch the main meal of the day. In these cases relatively simple foods might be packed in a container, such as a bag or a lunchbox, and taken to work or school. The quintessential bag lunch in North America of the past has consisted of a sandwich and often a whole fruit and either cookies or a candy bar. But here, the near-universal spread of the microwave oven to the workplace since the 1980s has changed the nature of workers' lunches considerably. Leftovers from home-cooked meals, frozen foods, and a huge variety of prepared foods needing only reheating are at least as common as the sandwich lunch.

In addition to its primary purpose, lunch can function as a form of entertainment, especially on weekends; a particularly fancy or formal lunch can be called a luncheon. Such lunches can be served at a restaurant, as a buffet or potluck, or as a sit-down feast. These events are very similar to festive suppers.

Lunch, both simple and fancy, often includes dessert.

Many nutritionists suggest that it is more appropriate to eat a large meal at lunch than it is to do so at supper, just prior to going to sleep, when the energy from the meal will not be properly used. An example of this style of meal can be found in the German diet, whose lunch mostly is large and cooked (as opposed to, say, a sandwich).

In a cricket match that lasts a full day or longer, there is a luncheon interval in each day's play, usually taken between 12:30pm and 1:30pm.

Continental French for "lunch" is déjeuner, Quebecois French is dîner; in Spanish it is almuerzo (or comida, which also means "food"). The Anglicism lunch means an invitational light meal usually eaten while standing and not necessarily around noon. It is offered for example in vernissages; in Portuguese it is almoço, in Italian it is pranzo, in German it is Mittagessen, in Danish it is frokost, in Esperanto it is tagmanĝo (or lunĉo) and in Greek it is γεύμα (pronounced yemva).de:Mittagessen


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