In Chile they don’t eat dinner…they eat ‘once’ (pronounced own-say).  This of course means eleven in Spanish, but what is not as obvious is why Chileans don’t ‘comer cena‘, like other Latin Americans, but ‘tomar once’.

The practice comes from the British settlers that abounded in Chile during the 1800’s.  In this time Chile was a large exporter of salt peter, a key ingredient in fertilizer and gun powder.  The British influence on the Chileans is still evident.  Chileans drink tea religiously accompanied by light cold foods like bread, meats, cheeses, etc.

The British will take a similar snack at around 11am called elevenses.  This is were the Chileans learned their word from, but have moved the meal to the evening, completely detaching it from its original meaning.


One thought on “Once

  1. I’ve also heard that it comes from workers wanting to have a snack during work hours, and wanting to drink some “aguardiente” (raw form of alcohol) along their meal. Aguardiente has 11 letters, so the “secret code” for having a drink with their meal was to “tomar once” – to drink eleven. With time, it changed to having a light meal, which is how it’s used today.

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