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Tiffin is a British English slang term of second breakfast or lunch, sometimes applied to any light meal. It originated in British India, and is today found primarily in Indian English.[1] The word originated when Indian custom superseded the British practice of an afternoon tea, leading to a new word for the afternoon meal.[1] It is derived from the obsolete English slang tiffing, for "taking a little drink or sip".[2] When used for "lunch", it is not necessarily a light meal.[3]:88

In South India and in Nepal, the term is generally used for between-meals snacks: dosas, idlis, etc.[4] In other parts of India, such as Mumbai, the word mostly refers to a packed lunch of some sort, in particular to light lunches prepared for working Indian men by their wives after they have left for work, or for schoolchildren by their parents.[5] 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.[6]

Tiffin often consists of rice, dal, curry, vegetables, chapatis or "spicy meats".[3]

In addition, the lunch boxes are themselves called tiffin carriers, tiffin-boxes or just tiffins.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Michael Quinion, World Wide Words: TIFFIN
  2. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, tiffin
  3. ^ a b Sarah Murray (2008). Moveable Feasts: From Ancient Rome to the 21st Century, the Incredible Journeys of the Food We Eat (illustrated ed.). Macmillan. pp. 85–108. ISBN 978-0-312-42814-3. 
  4. ^ Martin Hughes; Sheema Mookherjee; Richard Delacy (2001). India (illustrated ed.). Lonely Planet. p. 25. ISBN 978-1-86450-328-9. 
  5. ^ The Guardian. A Bombay lunchbox (June 24, 2002).
  6. ^ "Bombay's amazing dabbawalas". Archived from the original on 2008-02-09. 

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