Word of the Day


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a light meal that you make by putting a layer of food such as meat, cheese, or egg between two pieces of bread

Origin and usage

The noun sandwich is first attested in print in 1762 when the historian Edward Gibbon wrote of seeing ‘Twenty or thirty of the first men in the kingdom… supping at little tables, upon a bit of cold meat, or a Sandwich’. Gibbon’s use of the upper case ‘s’ is perhaps an indication that the word is an eponym, a word derived from someone’s name. In this case the name was that of John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, who was said to have sustained himself during a 24-hour gambling session with nothing more than some slices of cold beef placed between slices of toast.


Although the Earl of Sandwich has long been credited with the invention of the fast food that bears his name, no one can be entirely sure who was really the first person to put savoury food between two slices of bread to make it easier to consume on the move. The story persists, however, probably because it satisfyingly combines food, the aristocracy and gambling. What is certain is that sandwiches in all their various forms have never been more popular. The Macmillan Dictionary thesaurus entry for ‘Sandwiches, rolls and toast’ lists many different kinds, including the club sandwich, hero, open sandwich, submarine sandwich, and toastie, not to mention close cousins such as the burrito, hot dog, slider and wrap. Sandwich is also a verb, which nowadays is rarely used literally. It is generally found in the passive followed by the preposition ‘between’ and refers to things (or people) that are held either literally or figuratively between two things (or people) of a different type.


‘You alarm me!’ said the King. ‘I feel faint—Give me a ham sandwich!’
(Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass)

“The gilded confines of the Beauty Hall were not my preferred habitat; like the chicken that had laid the eggs for my sandwich, I was more of a free-range creature.”
(Gail Honeyman, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine)

Related words

butty, sanger, sarnie

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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Macmillan Dictionary

Macmillan Dictionary

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