Dictionary Says the Hot Dog Is a Sandwich…World Disagrees

The good folks at Merriam-Webster say that the all-American hot dog is a sandwich—but they're just about the only ones.

Barbecue Grilled Hot Dog with Yellow Mustard and ketchup on wooden table Photo: Shutterstock / Petrovich Nataliya

The hot dog is boldly included (and defined) in an article on the Merriam-Webster’s website: “To Chew On: 10 Kinds of Sandwiches.” But M-W acknowledges that this pronouncement may be met with raised eyebrows.

According to the article, “hot dog refers either to the sausage that you buy squeezed in a plastic package with 7 or so of its kind, or to the same sausage heated and served in a long split roll.”

And then the bomb is dropped: “When it’s served in the roll, it’s also a sandwich.”

The word wizards continue: “We know: The idea that a hot dog is a sandwich is heresy to some of you. But given that the definition of sandwich is ‘two or more slices of bread or a split roll having a filling in between,’ there is no sensible way around it.”

The Louisville Courier-Journal, however, is not buying this argument. On National Hot Dog Day, July 19, 2017, the Kentucky newspaper ran a correction apologizing for referring to hot dogs as sandwiches 10 times between 1887 and 1996.

The Fox Sports website also calls the whole hot dog = sandwich equation bologna. Reporter Rocco DeMaro interviewed a number of experts—in this case, Major League Baseball players. “If you ask somebody to go make you a sandwich, they’re not gonna make you a hot dog,” said Pittsburgh Pirates infielder Josh Harrison.

Closer to home, in a 20-recipe collection of hot dog dishes on the Taste of Home website, the word “sandwich” is used only once, but the wieners in question are wrapped in crescent rolls instead of buns for Pigs in a Blanket. And are the Glorified Hot Dogs from Cheryl Gillpatrick of Loveland, Colorado, referred to as sandwiches? Nope.

The Daily Meal tries to sit on the fence on the question (while simultaneously muddying the hot dog waters by introducing burgers into the argument). The website gives the dictionary its due, but still implies an anti-sandwich mindset. “Burgers and hot dogs exist in their own section of the menu, separate from the ‘Sandwiches.’ For all intents and purposes, they are completely different food items from sandwiches. But in terms of classifications, these cookout staples are indeed sandwiches, whether you think of them that way or not.”

The definitive (and identical) quotes—and possibly the last word—on the subject appropriately come from two more pro baseball players.

“No, it’s not a sandwich. It’s a hot dog,” say both Zach Duke of the Milwaukee Brewers and Brock Holt of the Boston Red Sox.

Game over.

Hot Dogs! Get Your Hot Dogs Here!
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Cathryn Jakicic
Cathy Jakicic has written about everything from business and bacteria to beads and baking in her career —but she greatly prefers the last two. She is a baker and a crafter and loves to try new recipes for both.