The 17th entry for "for" in thefreedictionary:

  1. in honor of: to give a dinner for a person.

A little search in Google Books gave some examples:

  1. Mr. and Mrs. R. Hall McCormick and Miss Elizabeth McCormick will give a dinner for eighty, January 9, the night of the Artists' Fete for the benefit of the Chicago Lying-In Hospital and Dispensary.

  2. But he said to his father, "For years I have worked for you like a slave and have always obeyed you. But you have never even given me a little goat, so that I could give a dinner for my friends. This other son of yours wasted your money on prostitutes."

  3. During the fall he had called Kirk into his office and stated that the State Department had asked him to give a dinner for the Shah.

  4. If she had gone to Malaysia, when the prime minister came to town, she'd give a dinner for him. The ambassador would look up what they did last time and there was always a meal at Mrs. Graham's house.

I think the first example is different from the others in that "for eighty" modifies "a dinner". The dinner is intended for eighty people.

I'm not sure if the other three examples could reasonably be rephrased as "give a dinner to". I think the meaning would stay the same, but "give a dinner for" adds a connotation of "in honor of". Semantically, do those referents of "for" have to be present in the dinner?

And when could "for" be used in the sense of "in honor of"? The following examples are also taken from Google Books. Could they be substituted with "for him" without much change in meaning?

It was a beautiful May morning, and Aleksi felt that the eiders made their low formation flights just centimeters above the water surface in honor of him.

It is reported of Stilpo the philosopher, that he thought he saw Neptune in his sleep, and that he seemed very much displeased with him, because he had not (as was usual with his priests) sacrificed an ox in honor of him.

A pervasive silence ruled that Monday after Mike's murder, with gathering groups hoping to hear more information. The Cadmus employees had a moment of silence in honor of him.

  • In the first example, you're correct. The 80 probably aren't the honorees. The sentence could be rewritten "... for the Chicago Lying-In Hospital and Dispensary".
    – TimR
    Mar 16, 2016 at 15:57

3 Answers 3



give a dinner for

implies it is an honorary dinner, even in your first example.

...gave a dinner for the Shah ( in honour of )
...gave a dinner in honour of the Shah ( obvious meaning )
...had dinner with the Shah ( maybe just grabbed a bite to eat )

Doing something in honour of someone, is to do something for someone with a feeling of respect. To do something for someone does not necessarily mean the feeling of respect is involved.

In your example, giving a dinner to someone is to physically hand dinner over to them. Giving a dinner for someone means you are celebrating something and allows you to participate with them.


Give a dinner to my friends and Give a dinner for my friends imply two very different ideas.

The first one, using to implies that you are going to prepare some food, give it to your friends, and not necessarily join them in eating.

Using for implies more that you are going to have them come to you for some sort of party, so yes, those referents would most likely be present for the dinner.

Compare the words respect, honor and reverence.

When discussing someone you hold in regard, you would say:

  1. I do this out of respect for him
  2. I do this in honor of him

So if you wanted to use for, you could not use honor - you cannot have honor for someone, but you can have respect.

  • Oh, I didn't mean we could use "in honor for someone". That was highly unlikely. I was asking if we could use "for him" instead of "in honor of him" in those examples.
    – Kinzle B
    Mar 16, 2016 at 14:57
  • Ah - in which case, yes you could, but to do so would be somewhat vague. 'He had not sacrificed an ox for him' could imply that he was doing someone a favour by actually doing the task himself, rather than doing it for someone's benefit.
    – TCassa
    Mar 16, 2016 at 15:04

"For" is a word with many meanings: "in honour of" is one of them. You can replace "for" with "in honour of" in examples 3 and 4 and it clarifies the meaning.

If, on the other hand, you replace "in honour of" by "for" in the passages from books that you quoted, it is syntactically correct but you are removing meaning: the reader has to work out which of the (at least) 17 meanings of 'for' you intended.

It's not semantically necessary for somebody to be present at a dinner in honour of somebody: the Scots have an annual dinner in honour of Robert Burns (b. 1759), even though, as he has been dead for a while, he cannot be present.

  • So is it OK to say "We gave a dinner for Robert Burns last week"?
    – Kinzle B
    Mar 16, 2016 at 15:19
  • 1
    For has the meaning to celebrate {X}, to honor {X} where X is object of the preposition. For your birthday, for Mardi Gras, for New Years, for The Veterans of Foreign Wars, for the bicentennial, for the anniversary, " a dinner for the Maternity Hospital", etc etc. For suggests the recipient can receive the honor or partake in the celebration. When it's an institution, the honor is accepted by its current leaders on behalf of the institution.
    – TimR
    Mar 16, 2016 at 16:06
  • @KinzleB: you could do, but there are actually special terms for an event in honour of Robert Burns- a Burns Night or a Burns Supper. So you would say "We held a burns night" or "We organized a Burns Night".
    – JavaLatte
    Mar 16, 2016 at 16:34

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