The Dog in Hot Dog: Roots of American Food Names



hamburgerThese 4th of July classics actually derive their names from Africa, Asia, and other surprising locales. The word hamburger owes its origins to the German city of Hamburg. Historians believe that around the same time sausage makers were refining their meat products, cooks in Hamburg served up a cooked version of steak tartare. Now what’s up with the dog in hot dog?

Hot dog

[n. hot dawg]

hot-dog The name hot dog was born when German immigrants in the United States began selling variations of sausages, some of which were thin and long, like dachshunds. Merchants with a morbid sense of humor started calling these dachshund sausages. Over time, the phrase shortened into hot dog and the name stuck like ketchup.


[kechuhp, kach-]

ketchupThe common American condiment made of tomatoes and vinegar got its name from a very different sauce made in China. The word ketchup comes from the Malay word kichap, a brine of fish. American sailors added tomatoes to create the sauce we enjoy today. But what about ketchup’s mortal enemy, mayonnaise?


[mey-uhneyz, meyuh-neyz]

mayonnaiseWe don’t actually know where the weird word mayonnaise came from. There are two competing theories. One holds that it is named after Mahon, the city in Spain. However, the French contend that the word is a mutation of bayonnaise, from the French town Bayonne.




coleslawCole slaw has often mistakenly been called cold slaw since the late 1800s. The word cole comes from the Dutch word for cabbage, kool. The word slaw is a shortened form of salade.



barbecueThe word barbecue originated in a Native American language spoken in what is today Haiti. The Arawakan word barbakoa meant “framework of sticks.” The contemporary meaning of “grill for cooking over an open fire” arose in the 1930s.



chiliLike barbecue, the word chili comes from a Native American word. In this case the Central American language Nahuatl gave us the word xilli for pepper. In English it became chili. In fact the nation of Chile derives its name from a completely independent source and is the topic of scholarly dispute.



colaThe word cola actually comes from a tree, not a drink. It is named after the cola-nut tree, which is native to tropical western Africa. Colas were originally made with the dried leaves and nuts of cola trees, so both Pepsi-Cola and Coca-Cola took their names from their main ingredients.

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This blog is Zoe's way to spread the joy of finding and learning interesting bits about English. Join her and learn something new every time.

3 responses to “The Dog in Hot Dog: Roots of American Food Names”

  1. Alexander says :

    I think that’s enough of this jiggerypokery this morning….I have to get to work.

    Really, a fine site.

    P,S. I wonder why we hear words like disgruntled but rarely if at all hear anyone say gruntled….? Even the PC underlines the word gruntled as if it doesn’t exist.

    • says :

      Hey, Alexander,
      See whar has got to say about your case:

      “I woke up in such a good mood, I was absolutely gruntled!” This may be a lovely sentiment, but no one in the history of English has ever been gruntled, though many have been disgruntled in various ways. When people are disgruntled they are displeased, discontented, sulky, or peevish. The word is derived from the onomatopoetic sound a person makes when in a bad mood, a “grunt,” from the Old English grunnettan. In this case, the prefix dis- intensifies the medieval term of annoyance “gruntle,” so that to be disgruntled is to be extremely gruntled.

      Thank you for stopping by,

  2. Sudhi says :

    What about Pizza, Burgers, DoNuts, Fingerchips, Tex-Mex Food, Buffalo Wing, Macaroni, Steak, FrenchFries, Grits, Jambalya, Taco, Reuben Sandwich, Burrito etc

I would love to hear from you

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