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For other uses, see Tiffin (disambiguation).

Tiffin is an 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originated in British India, and is today found primarily in Indian English.[1] The word originated when Indian custom superseded the British practice of an afternoon tea, leading to a new word for the afternoon meal.[1] It is derived from the obsolete English slang tiffing, for "taking a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 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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