The British Aristocrat Behind The Term 'Sandwich'

In the present day, the term 'sandwich' is ubiquitous. But where did this moniker first come from? It's not like it's a combination of other words — sand obviously isn't food, and, according to Pro Writing Aid, "wich" is an outdated term that once referred to either thread bundles or small towns. Well, the etymology of the word "sandwich" is tied to a person, and a British aristocrat, no less.

The history of sandwiches goes back further than the United Kingdom, however. According to How Stuff Works, sandwiches have been around since at least the first century B.C. Hillel the Elder was a rabbi who placed bitter herbs and lamb meat in between pieces of matzo bread, which became an important part of Passover Seder. Per History, Hillel was born in Babylon yet later moved to Jerusalem, and sandwiches went on to achieve popularity in the Middle East and Mediterranean regions for quite a long time afterward.

By the middle of the 1800s, most English speakers called slices of bread with filling inside "sandwiches" (via History). Myriad subcategories now exist: Club, breakfast, open-faced, subs – the list goes on and on. The word "sandwich" isn't only a noun, it's become a verb, too! That's one popular food moniker. So, who specifically do we owe this all to?

John Montagu, Earl of Sandwich

John Montagu, the Fourth Earl of Sandwich (the town in Kent County, England), was the man behind the name. This British aristocrat was known to gamble. Supposedly, in 1762, unwilling to put his cards down, Montagu ordered some beef between toast so he could eat one-handedly while still playing his game. This creation may have been inspired by his travels to Turkey. This caught the attention of other English folks, so this style of food soon bore his name. In the same year, an English historian recorded the term "sandwich," referring to food and thus backing up the tale (via HuffPost). 

Almost a decade later, a travel writer by the surname of Grosley noted Londoners with a similar sandwich as Montagu, noting that " ... it was called by the name of the minister who invented it ... " (via What's Cooking America). John Montagu didn't invent sandwiches, but these historical documents seem to substantiate his claim to name fame.

Currently, the 11th Earl of Sandwich serves in the House of Lords. Like the 4th Earl, his name is also John Montagu, but you can call him Lord Sandwich if you'd like. The 11th Earl proudly carries on the legacy of his ancestor, having created the Earl of Sandwich restaurant chain in the early 2000s alongside his son and the founder/CEO of Planet Hollywood, per Earl of Sandwich. It turns out every time you order a sandwich, you're also continuing that tradition!