Nuncheon, anyone?

It’s barely 10 a.m.,

but you feel like munchin’ …

You’re craving some crunchin’ …

Can’t wait for a luncheon!

No worries, my dear.

Let’s do a nuncheon.

I didn’t make this one up,


“Nuncheon” is every bit as real a word as luncheon,

and both were invented in the 19th century

(by Mother Necessity, of course).

After all, a gal can get mighty hungry come mid-morning.


At the beginning of the nineteenth century, breakfast often occurred well after sunup, and dinner came along in mid-afternoon, so lunch as we know it wasn’t really an issue.

But as time went by, dinner got pushed back hour-by-hour, and, well, you can see the obvious problem.

“Luncheon” began to light upon the tongues of the hungry, but some cynical soul deemed it a vulgar term.

Somehow, nuncheon (which may have been pronounced noon-shine) was easier on the ears.

Go figure.

According to period author Regina Scott of Nineteen Teen, nuncheon food “was laid out on a sideboard in the dining room, and you could pick from cold meats like ham and roast beef, pickles, fruit preserves, and dessert-type items like cakes, buns, and tarts, all washed down with ale or tea. You might even grab up a sandwich of bread, meat, and cheese.”

Yes, that was my tummy grumbling.

“At least in some circles, however, luncheon was considered the resort of old men, young mothers, and children, in other words, those who were not strong enough to make it through the day without a little pick-me-up,” Regina explains. “And it was definitely a family affair–one did not invite guests to lunch as one did to breakfasts or dinners.”

Alas, some traditions were made to be broken.

Nuncheon, anyone?

Leave a comment 4 Comments

  1. CJ Armstrong says:

    Works for me! In fact, I do better with more frequent “meals” but they are smaller and I try to focus on healthy food with “staying power”.
    Hmmmmm . . . I gotta go find a “nunchie”!

  2. Winnie Nielsen says:

    I am always in search for a snack about 10 am! Just seems that my engine is low about that time of day. Love the term nuncheon.

  3. Matt G says:

    The version I was taught is pretty close, and I’m not saying I’m right, but the little difference is interesting. The way I heard it, nuncheon was a drink, likely a light beer, served mid-afternoon. it sometimes could come with a little snack. The word lunch was a variant of lump, and it was a snack meant to tide one over between the long gap between breakfast and dinner. A little piece of meat or bread, could be carried along and eaten in the field. As better lighting (cheaper, brighter, less stinky candles) became avaliable, dinner was pushed still further later, which meant a miday meal needed to be invented. The words for that miday drink and the snack got conflagurated into lunch/luncheon.

  4. Lynnette Morrison says:

    Thank you for the explanation. Am reading several early English novels as part of a Goodreads challenge, so understanding terms is important.

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