If you are travelling to France, you will have le petit déjeuner in the morning, le déjeuner at lunch time and le dîner in the evening. But how about Switzerland, Belgium or Canada? Well, they will eat le déjeuner in the morning, le dîner at noon and le souper in the evening. Confusing, no?
Well, we have to come back to the origin of déjeuner. This word, like in English, refers to the end of the fasting period since the prior evening, dé– indicating the opposite of jeûner, “fasting”. In France, in the 19th century, people were waking up late and were having the first meal of the day, le déjeuner, at around noon. They had dinner before going to the theater or to the opera and supper late at night. When they began to get up earlier in the morning, they had a morning snack that they called le petit déjeuner, literally “a small breaking of the fast”. It became the standard for breakfast in France!
So next time you will be travelling to a francophone country, don’t be confused and make a reservation for dîner in France and for souper in Switzerland!