The Grammarphobia Blog

A scramble before eggs

Q: I know the words “preprandial” and “postprandial” refer to before and after dinner, respectively. Are there words for before and after breakfast?

A: In English, the adjective “prandial” means “of or relating to a meal,” according to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th ed.), so it could refer to any meal.

“Preprandial” and “postprandial,” says American Heritage, mean before and after a meal, especially dinner. But they too could refer to before or after breakfast, lunch, supper, whatever.

In fact, if you were speaking to great Caesar’s ghost and you used the term “preprandial,” he’d probably think you meant before breakfast or lunch, not dinner! That’s because “prandial” comes from the Latin prandium (a late breakfast or lunch).

The first published reference for “prandial” in the Oxford English Dictionary dates from the mid-1700s. The befores and afters, “preprandial” and “postprandial,” arrived on the scene in the early 1800s. For a while, both “anteprandial” and “preprandial” referred to before eating, but “pre” eventually bested “ante.”

The word “breakfast,” by the way, dates from 1463. It refers to the meal that we eat to “break” our overnight “fast.” That reminds me of a poem by Shelley that compares breakfasts “professional and critical” to dinners “convivial and political.”

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