ETYMOLOGY OF ‘TIFFIN’

If you live in Asian countries neighbouring India, then you’d have definitely heard this word ‘Tiffin’. Tiffin refers to a light snack or tea snack in South India. In the other parts of India, it refers to meals packed in a box. The word ‘tiffin’ is quite a trend that most of the people in India don’t really know that the word was created by Indians and is not really used outside the country. During the British Raj, because of the Indian climate the English had to eat their dinner in the evening unlike their usual dining time, which is late in the afternoon. They had to have a light meal in between lunch and dinner. The usual British term for this meal was luncheon. A luncheon, is a light midday meal.

Somewhere during the late 1800s and early 1900s, an old British slang word ‘tiffing’ came into trends. Tiffing usually meant a little drink between meals at midday. It became a trend in the Anglo-Indians living in Northern regions of the British raj. By late 1800s the word ‘tiffing’ was naturalised and it was now referred to as what luncheon meant, a little snack.

By early 1900s, tiffing was being called as tiffin and it meant different things in the different parts of India. Southern states of India and Nepal share a common meaning that a tiffin is a light meal or usually a tea snack. Whereas other parts of India consider tiffins as boxed/packaged meals.

Few sources claim that the word tiffing originated from ‘sipping’ in one of the dialects of Anglo Indians. As tiffing started referring to a tea snack, it does sound logical to be originated from the word ‘sipping’. Either way, this Anglo Indian originated word is now on Oxford and is quite normally used by many Indians and neighbours. Even restaurants serving these light snacks are named as ‘tiffin centres’.

In Mumbai, tiffin js referred to as packaged meak as the dabbawala calls their delivered meal boxes as tiffin-boxes. Dabbawala are a delivery service in Mumbai which deliver curries and meals anywhere in Mumbai.

A ‘tiffin carrier’

The South is famous for their tiffins, like Dosa, Idly and Vada. ‘South Indian tiffins’ has become a cuisine in many restaurants across India. They’re usually consumed as breakfast or a snack in the evening.

A dosa being made.

This is how a British slang word which travelled along the tongue tips of the locals got naturalised, modified and now it has a place in the Oxford dictionary.

We’d be happy if you have got knowledge about this word or any other word like this which got naturalised yet got its place in the dictionary. You can either mail us or leave a comment. Don’t forget to have your tiffin while reading our articles.

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Writing is not a skill acquired through practice. Not for us, at least. Writing is a phenomenon that occurred to us when we wanted to shout our thoughts out. It occurred when our brains formed a labyrinth of thoughts with no way out. Only way was to break the walls, the walls we constructed in our minds. The walls which stopped us from letting ourselves out. We broke the walls using the most mightiest weapon, the pen. Writing was our way out of that maze. Words and sentences flowed like a stream of some river, which consisted of A2Z instead of H2O. Soon the river filled the brain and the labyrinth was not visible anymore. 

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