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The word snack is a fluid one with a range of meaning: a small meal serving to ward off hunger and provide a break from work, snack time, the period during which this happens, and snack food, the edibles and drinkables consumed during this period.

Some snacks are ritualized and have their own names, such as the coffee break and afternoon tea; see the catalogues for a list of these.

The most common meal known simply as a snack is probably the one North American children have on returning home from school, at between three and five o’clock in the afternoon. Elsewhere, children often join the rest of the family for afternoon tea.