Some say that the leftover is the amount of food or drink left in the container from which it was served; but some say that leftover is the amount left in the container from which it was used; e.g.

There is some drink in a jug equaling to amount of four glasses, one third has been poured in three glasses, now amount left in the jug, is 'leftover'? OR

There is some drink in a glass, half has been drunk by someone, now the half remaining in the glass is leftover?

To sum up, the amount left having eaten or drunk is leftover or the amount unused (not drunk or eaten yet) in the main container is leftover?

  • 1
    Can you link to your sources. You claim "some say..." please link to the dictionaries that have different definitions.
    – James K
    Feb 1 '18 at 6:28

The dictionary definitions don't really make this clear one way or the other, do they?

Leftover food is (or leftovers are) food that has been set out for a meal that has been neither consumed nor served, and so can be saved and used in another meal. Leftover food is not food or drink that has been served to a person and not finished.

For example, leftover bread can be made into bread pudding. Leftover rice can be made into fried rice. I can take leftover hamburgers and vegetables and make them into a casserole, or leftover sausages and mashed potatoes and make them into a shepherd's pie. On the other hand, there isn't much you can do with leftover eggs besides throw them away.

Now here's where it can be confusing. I can say this:

I would never use leftover food from someone's plate to make leftovers.

You can indeed use leftover to speak of food that someone has left on their plate, but you have to specify it as such. You are then using the word in the broader sense of anything that has been left over: leftover furniture, leftover clothes, leftover space, etc. If you just say leftover food (when speaking of food served at a meal) or leftovers, you are speaking of food that can be repurposed and served at another meal.

Edit: As Laurel mentions in the comments, an exception to this is food that you bring home from a restaurant meal that you couldn't finish, generally for your own consumption later. My comments stand for meals made at home.

  • 1
    "Leftover food is not food or drink that has been served to a person and not finished" I disagree. I bring home leftovers (always food) from restaurants all the time and these are always meals that were served to me. This is idiomatic, and you can find examples online too.
    – Laurel
    Feb 2 '18 at 5:59
  • @Laurel You're right about that one; I didn't think of that. When I wrote this, I was thinking of meals served at home.
    – BobRodes
    Feb 3 '18 at 8:13

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