Square meal is an idiom with roots in the 1500s. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase or phrasal verbs that have a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. These figures of speech often use descriptive imagery, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often colloquialisms or descriptors that are spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase or expression that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom or other parts of speech is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions that native speakers understand such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, chin up, eye to eye, barking up the wrong tree, bite the bullet, beat a dead horse, hit the nail on the head, kicked the bucket, blow off steam, jump on the bandwagon, piece of cake, hit the sack, and raining cats and dogs, as they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker. It is possible to memorize a list of idioms, but it may be easier to pay attention to the use of idioms in everyday speech, where peculiar imagery will tell you that the expressions should not be taken literally. We will examine the meaning of the idiom square meal, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.
A square meal is a complete, nutritious, hearty meal that satisfies the person eating it. The origin of square meal is often attributed to the use of square, wooden dishes onboard ships. This is a myth. The term square meal originated in the United States in the mid-1800s, and is related to the use of the word square to mean fair or honest. This definition of square has been used in English since the 1500s. Other phrases in which the word square is used to mean fair or honest are fair and square and square accounts.
For Bangladesh, the more fundamental issue is, can we ever reach such a point where everyone, including even those situated at the lowest rung of the income ladder, can have a square meal every day, send their children to school, and receive medical care when they are sick? (The Daily Star)
If you square such an undertaking against the fact that most Sierra Leoneans can barely have a square meal a day, you can see why they feel that the government has had its priorities mixed up. (The Sierra Leone Telegraph)
“This will help those who cannot even afford to have a square meal a day.” (New Straits Times)
“Today when there are poor people who do not even get a square meal a day, it is a wrong precedent to throw lakhs of rupees over a celebration.” (Ahmedabad Mirror)
Check out some others we covered: