Word of the Day


© Getty Images/Blend Images


a thin round flat food made by cooking a mixture of flour, eggs, and milk

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

Pancake is a compound noun formed from the nouns ‘pan’ and ‘cake’, and resembles similar words in other Germanic languages. It was first used in English in the 15th century.


The tradition of eating pancakes on Shrove Tuesday (Mardi Gras in American English) derives from the practice of fasting during Lent, which starts on the following day, Ash Wednesday. Fasting involved abstaining not only from meat and fish but from all animal products, so pancakes were made and eaten on Shrove Tuesday in order to use up milk, eggs and fat before the fasting period began.

In some places today, people participate in pancake races, which involve running while holding a frying pan containing a hot pancake and tossing it as you run. Although pancakes can be made in different ways, may be sweet or savoury and can contain a variety of fillings, on Pancake Day most people favour the traditional plain pancake made from a batter containing eggs, flour, milk and salt, flavoured with a sprinkle of sugar and lemon juice.


“Someone who eats pancakes and jam can’t be so awfully dangerous. You can talk to him.”
(Tove Jansson, ‘Finn Family Moomintroll’)

Related words

crepe, flapjack (US English), fritter, waffle

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Macmillan Dictionary

Macmillan Dictionary

Leave a Comment