What's the difference between 顿 and 道 as a measure word for meals? What each measure word stresses?

  1. 吃了一顿饭
  2. 吃了一道饭

Looks like 顿 used to mean 点头 diǎntóu or 鞠躬 jūgōng. If it's so, then presenting "a dish" with a 鞠躬 makes some sence and can explain why 顿 started to be used as a measure word for this type of thing.

But 道 as far as I know is used for crooked thinks like roads and lightnings. Can 道 be used as "a round" like in boxing. "Next round of meals"...

  • see dictionary, e.g.bkrs: classifier for meals, beatings, scoldings etc: 挨了一顿骂 get a scolding 说了他一顿 give him a dressing-down 一天三顿饭 three meals a day classifier for long thin things (rivers, cracks etc), barriers (walls, doors etc), questions (in an exam etc), commands, courses in a meal, steps in a process (old) administrative division (similar to province in Tang times)
    – user6065
    Sep 3, 2017 at 13:49
  • I know what dictionary says. But simply by looking at the dictionary datum I can't see why there are 2 measure words for MEALS. Is there etymological connection between 顿 as a meal and 顿 as a conflict.
    – coobit
    Sep 4, 2017 at 6:12
  • 顿 - looks like a bud + a head = maybe it's a swelling on the forehead after deep bow? Maybe it's how 顿 got it "measure word for conflict meaning"?
    – coobit
    Sep 4, 2017 at 6:13
  • I am not quite sure the etymology of 顿 as a meal. My guess will be that 顿 can mean 'Pause' and 'sudden', so meals are separated with Pauses.
    – dan
    Sep 4, 2017 at 6:40
  • I thought meals should be separated with deep bows... :) You know, like those meals in the Emperor Palace.
    – coobit
    Sep 4, 2017 at 7:17

2 Answers 2


一頓饭 is one meal whereas 一道菜 is one course or one dish.


This sumptuous dinner is made up of twelve courses.

  • So sometimes one 頓 consists of 12 courses 道?
    – coobit
    Sep 4, 2017 at 6:20
  • @coobit There isn't any relationship like that. One 顿 can consists of any number of courses.
    – dan
    Sep 4, 2017 at 6:23
  • Yes, a very formal banquet dinner (wedding, birthday ... etc.) typically consists of 12 courses and way too much food, IMO.
    – monalisa
    Sep 4, 2017 at 17:39

一道饭 is a wrong expression. It should be 一道菜.

Both 顿 and 道 can be measure words. For example,

顿: 一顿饭,打一顿,揍一顿...


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