A sandwich is a food item, typically
consisting of two or more slices of bread with one or more
fillings between them, or one slice of
with a topping or toppings, commonly called an open
sandwich. Sandwiches are a widely popular type of
lunch food, typically taken to work or school, or
picnics to be
eaten as part of a packed lunch.
generally contain a combination of salad vegetables, meat,
cheese, and a variety of sauces or savory spreads.
The bread can be used as it is, or it can be coated with
any condiments to enhance flavor and texture. They
are widely sold in restaurants and cafes.
Bread has been eaten with any meat or vegetables since
Neolithic times. For example, the ancient Jewish
sage Hillel the Elder is said to have placed meat from the
Paschal lamb and bitter herbs between two pieces of matzah
(or flat, unleavened bread) during Passover. During the
Middle Ages, thick slabs of coarse and usually stale
bread, called "trenchers", were used as plates.
After a meal, the food-soaked trencher was fed to a dog or
to beggars, or eaten by the diner. Trenchers were the
precursors of open-face sandwiches. The immediate cultural
precursor with a direct connection to the English sandwich
was to be found in the Netherlands of the 17th century,
where the naturalist John Ray observed that in the taverns
beef hung from the rafters "which they cut into thin
slices and eat with bread and butter laying the slices
upon the butter" - explanatory specifications that reveal
the Dutch belegde broodje was as yet unfamiliar in
Initially perceived as food men shared while gaming and
drinking at night, the sandwich slowly began appearing in
polite society as a late-night meal among the aristocracy.
The sandwich's popularity in Spain and England increased
dramatically during the 19th century, when the rise of an
industrial society and the working classes made fast,
portable, and inexpensive meals essential.
It was at the same time that the sandwich finally began to
appear outside of Europe. In the United States, the
sandwich was first promoted as an elaborate meal at
supper. By the early 20th century, as bread became a
staple of the United States diet, the sandwich became the
same kind of popular, quick meal as was widespread in the
The first written usage of the English word appeared in
Edward Gibbon's journal, in longhand, referring to "bits
of cold meat" as a 'Sandwich'. It was named after John
Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, an 18th-century English
aristocrat, although he was neither the inventor nor
sustainer of the food.
It is said that he ordered his
valet to bring him meat tucked between two pieces of
bread, and because Montagu also happened to be the Fourth
Earl of Sandwich, others began to order "the same as
Sandwich!" It is said that Lord Sandwich was fond of this
form of food because it allowed him to continue playing
cards, particularly cribbage, while eating without getting
his cards greasy from eating meat with his bare hands.
The rumor in its familiar form appeared in Pierre-Jean
Grosley's Londres (Neichatel, 1770), translated as A Tour
to London 1772; Grosley's impressions had been formed
during a year in London, 1765. The sober alternative is
provided by Sandwich's biographer, N. A. M. Rodger, who
suggests Sandwich's commitments to the navy, to politics
and the arts mean the first sandwich was more likely to
have been consumed at his desk.
The term sandwich is occasionally used (informally) in
reference to open-faced sandwiches; these normally consist
of a single slice of bread topped with meat, salad
vegetables, and various condiments. These differ from a
normal sandwich in that they have a single slice of bread
instead of two, with toppings instead of a filling.
open-faced sandwich also has a history differing from that
of the true sandwich, having originated between the 6th
and 16th centuries, with stale slices of bread used as
plates called "Trenchers" (whereas its relative, the
modern sandwich, traces its roots to the Earl of Sandwich
In the United States, a court in Boston, Massachusetts
ruled that "sandwich" includes at least two slices of
bread. and "under this definition and as dictated by
common sense, this court finds that the term "sandwich" is
not commonly understood to include burritos, tacos, and
quesadillas, which are typically made with a single
tortilla and stuffed with a choice filling of meat, rice,
The issue was whether a restaurant which sold
burritos could move into a shopping center where another
restaurant had a no-compete clause in its lease
prohibiting other "sandwich" shops.
In Spain, where the word sandwich is borrowed from the
English language, it refers to a food item made with
English sandwich bread.
The verb to sandwich has the meaning to position anything
between two other things of a different character, or to
place different elements alternately, and the noun
sandwich has related meanings derived from this more
general definition. For example, an ice cream sandwich
consists of a layer of ice cream between two layers of
cake or cookie. Similarly, Oreos and Custard Creams are
described as sandwich cookies because they consist of a
soft filling between layers of cookie.
The word "butty" is often used in Northern areas of the
United Kingdom as a synonym for "sandwich," particularly
in the name of certain kinds of sandwiches such as a chip
butty, bacon butty, or sausage butty. "Sarnie" is a
similar colloquialism, as is the Australian English