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I took German in Highschool about 20 years ago, so I quite possibly have forgotten this, but I thought I had learned “breakfast” as “Morgenessen” just like lunch is “Mittagessen” but I’ve recently started using an online language site and they are using “Frühstück”.

Is one more common or more formal than the other? Is it regional?

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up vote 14 down vote accepted

In Germany the correct term is "Frühstück", nobody is using the term "Morgenessen" but in Switzerland the term "Morgenessen" is used.

I have to admit that it would be consistent, though, because there are both "Mittagessen" and "Abendessen".

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Maybe it's because Morgenessen might be ambigiuous: "Willst du Morgenessen?" - "Wieso morgen essen? Ich will Frühstück, ich hab Hunger." (I'm just kidding) – bouscher Aug 1 '13 at 8:01
@TecBrat: Jan is absolutely right - nobody in Germany uses it and I was surprised to learn that it appears to be common in Switzerland. I suspect that many Germans will not know this and will (like me) assume that you're making a humorous reference to Dürrenmatt's comedy "Romulus der Große", where the Protagonist insists on calling breakfast Morgenessen and corrects his servant, who says Frühstück. This is the only instance where I encountered this expression in the last 38 years. – Mac Aug 1 '13 at 8:32
Nobody in Germany use it is wrong. I use it, and I'm living in Germany for my whole life! But as a born Alemanne I grew up in the Swiss language area ); Morgenessen seems to be an Alemmanic expression. – knut Aug 1 '13 at 18:50

"Morgenessen" literally means "morning meal" and is a plausible translation for "breakfast." As noted in another answer, it is more commonly used in Swiss German than "German" German.

"Frühstück" literally means "early portion." The implication is that it is not a full meal, but merely a "stopgap" for one or more larger meals later in the day. If you've ever eaten a "Continental" breakfast (as opposed to an American "farmer's breakfast"), you'll know what I mean.

Nowadays, the word "Lunch" has crept into the German language as a substitute for "Mittagessen," with the implication that it is not the main meal of the day.

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I think the last paragraph of your sentence is only true for some parts of Germany. Furthermore, I guess a lot of Germans still consider lunch as the main meal. – Em1 Aug 2 '13 at 13:10
@Em1: That's why I used the term "crept in." It seem to be true, but not "across the board." – Tom Au Aug 2 '13 at 13:12

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