See also: Tiffin

English edit

English Wikipedia has an article on:
Metal dabbas or tiffin carriers used in India to hold meals

Etymology edit

Apparently from English tiffing, present participle of tiff (to take a small drink, to sip) (slang).

Pronunciation edit

  • IPA(key): /ˈtɪfɪn/
  • (file)
  • Hyphenation: tif‧fin

Noun edit

tiffin (countable and uncountable, plural tiffins)

  1. (British, India) A (light) midday meal or snack; luncheon.
    • 1847 January – 1848 July, William Makepeace Thackeray, “The Green Silk Purse”, in Vanity Fair [], London: Bradbury and Evans [], published 1848, →OCLC, page 31:
      [] I bought a pine-apple at the same time, which I gave to Sambo. Let's have it for tiffin; very cool and nice this hot weather.
    • 1845, A Detailed Report of the Proceedings on the Trial of the Eighteen Parsee Prisoners for Murder, before the Supreme Court, Bombay, on Wednesday, July 17, 1844. Also, an Appendix, Containing the Examinations, Depositions, and Confessions of the Prisoners after Trial. With a Petition to the Queen in Council, from the Native and European Inhabitants, on Behalf of the Prisoners, London: Samuel Clarke, 13 Pall Mall East, →OCLC, page 42:
      That garden belongs to Manockjee Metta; that day many of us met and had tiffin and supper. At tiffin there were ten of us.
    • 1895, Oliver Optic [pseudonym; William Taylor Adams], Across India, or, Live Boys in the Far East (All-over-the-World Library; 3rd ser.), Boston, Mass.: Lee and Shepard, Publishers, 10 Milk Street, →OCLC:
      "Bring sahib coffee at six in the morning; breakfast at nine; tiffin at one." / "What's that last one, Moro?" / "We had tiffin at Suez, and it means luncheon," interposed Morris. / "I didn't hear the word; but it is all right, and tiffin it is after this time. Come; are you going down-stairs, fellows?"
    • 2004, Harry Berry, My Darling Wife, or, How I Passed the Time of Day Between 18th April 1940 and 5th November 1945: Being the Unexpurgated Letters, Diaries and Other Scribblings of an Ordinary Soldier, Hertford: Authors OnLine Ltd., →ISBN, page 288:
      Had tiffin at 11.30 a.m. 1½ rations of rice with fried fish. Added frying oil and soup powder. Excellent, both in quantity and quality, but stomach is a bit troublesome. Can't wonder at it really!
    • 2008, Sarah Murray, Moveable Feasts: From Ancient Rome to the 21st Century, the Incredible Journeys of the Food We Eat, New York, N.Y.: Picador, →ISBN, pages 88–89:
      Tiffin is an old colonial term. Often thought of as a snack taken with afternoon tea, tiffin is actually a light lunch eaten at midday. Indian colonial writings make numerous references to tiffin. [] Tiffin was not always the lightest of meals. In a 1904 account, Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore, an American travel writer and photographer, described the overindulgent culinary order of the day in colonial Calcutta: "The solid two-o'clock tiffin, following the heavy ten-o'clock breakfast, is so soon succeeded by the four-o'clock tea and the eight-o'clock dinner, that it is a surprise that any one survives the constant feasting which fills Anglo-Indian life."
    • 2013, Sara Roncaglia, Feeding the City: Work and Food Culture of the Mumbai Dabbawalas, Cambridge: Open Book Publishers, →DOI, →ISBN, page 22:
      Tiffin work started with Raghunath Medge's father, who worked first of all at Bombay Churchgate station. When the British Raj was in power, then there was work at Churchgate. The people who worked at Girni had tiffin delivered to them. [] People went out early in the morning and tiffin was delivered later.
  2. (British, India) A box or container used to carry a tiffin.
    Synonyms: tiffin carrier, (India) dabba, (Singapore) tingkat
    • 2011, Mahtab Narsimhan, The Tiffin, Toronto, Ont.: Dancing Cat Books, →ISBN:
      "Young memsahib, an empty tiffin box costs ten rupees in the market. With the food, it's worth maybe fifteen rupees. Do you think I could retire after I steal it?" the man said. “I'm getting late. Do you want your husband to get his lunch or not? That last one's for him, isn't it?" He jerked his chin at the tiffin Anahita was still hugging.
  3. A cake-like confection composed of crushed biscuits, sugar, syrup, raisins, cherries and cocoa powder, often covered with a layer of melted chocolate.

Descendants edit

  • Chinese Pidgin English: tiffin
  • Macanese: tifim, tifinâ

Verb edit

tiffin (third-person singular simple present tiffins, present participle tiffining, simple past and past participle tiffined)

  1. (British, India, intransitive) To eat a (light) midday meal or snack.
    • 1884, B[ithia] M[ary] Croker, Pretty Miss Neville. A Novel. (Harper's Franklin Square Library; no. 363), New York, N.Y.: Harper & Bros., →OCLC, page 328:
      Do you know that he tiffins with her three times a week, and every night, after leaving here, he finishes the evening in her society, sitting in the veranda and smoking cigarettes till all hours.
    • 1888, Rudyard Kipling, “The Bisara of Pooree”, in Plain Tales from the Hills, Calcutta: Thacker, Spink and Co.; London: W. Thacker & Co., →OCLC, page 223:
      Pack had been tiffining by himself to the right of the arch, and had heard everything.
    • 1899, Henry Keppel, A Sailor's Life under Four Sovereigns, volume I, London: Macmillan and Co.; New York, N.Y.: Macmillan Co., →OCLC, page 336:
      Slept, tiffined, and read in heat of the day. At 4 p.m. hunted again, and finished the evening with a jolly good dinner.
    • 1988, Rudyard Kipling, “1889: Letter Six”, in Hugh Cortazzi, George Webb, editors, Kipling's Japan: Collected Writings, London, Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: The Athlone Press, →ISBN, page 98:
      And so I lay at Arashiyama which is near Kyoto, in a yellow straw tea-house overlooking the beautiful river of which I have written, my mouth full of fried mountain trout and my soul soaking in a great calm. [] The lady of the tea-house insisted upon screening us off from the other pleasure-parties who were tiffining in the same verandah, and we were left alone with the trout.
    • 2011, Elizabeth Clinch, Nicholas Clinch, Through a Land of Extremes: The Littledales of Central Asia (Legends and Lore Series), Seattle, Wash.: The Mountaineers Books, →ISBN, page 73:
      From the diary it would appear that the main activities were shooting, walking, and alternating meals on each other's boat. "We dined with them. They tiffined with us." "Tiffined with them. They dined with us."

Synonyms edit

Chinese Pidgin English edit

Etymology edit

From English tiffin.

Noun edit


  1. luncheon
    • 1860, The Englishman in China, London: Saunders, Otley, and Co., page 44:
      Just now teeefin[sic] have leddy.
      Luncheon is ready.

References edit

  • Gow, W. S. P. (1924) Gow’s Guide to Shanghai, 1924: A Complete, Concise and Accurate Handbook of the City and District, Especially Compiled for the Use of Tourists and Commercial Visitors to the Far East, Shanghai, page 108:Tiffin: (Indian) luncheon.