This July 4th weekend, as you hear the calefaction of comestibles, consider the names of those items you are about to eat.

Brace yourself for the short and disputed history of the “hot dog.”

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, people commonly believed that the thin sausages contained dog meat. This particularly gruesome coinage started on American college campuses in the late 19th century, according to hot-dog historian Bruce Kraig.

The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council suggests the phrase, in part, might have slightly more innocent inspiration. In the mid-19th century, German immigrant butchers in the United States began selling variations of sausages, some of which were thin and long, like the dog breed dachshund. They called these dachshund sausages. Over time, the phrase may have been bastardized into “hot dog.”

Two other words for hot dogs — frankfurters and wieners — raise an unsettled debate about where the food originated. The former is named for Frankfurt, Germany; the latter, for Vienna, Austria (wiener is the German adjective that means “of Vienna). Even the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council says this argument is too hard to pin down.

And in case, you’re wondering: Non-kosher hot dogs do not contain dog. They have pork in them, whereas kosher hot dogs have no pork and are likely to contain beef, chicken, or turkey. No dog meat there, either.

The word “hamburger” also owes its origins to a German city — in this case, Hamburg. Food 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. For awhile, the dish was known in English as “hamburger steak.”

If you’re a vegetarian, fear not. We have a word to barbecue for you, too. Throw a tofu burger on the grill and keep this is mind: “tofu” comes from Chinese, by way of Japanese, meaning “rotten bean.”


  1. wolf tamer and iron miner -  March 9, 2014 - 4:50 am

    There’s a National Hot Dog & Sausage Council?! Cool! ;)

    Stop criticizing wILLIam, you Grammar Nazis. I know this is a dictionary website, and he maybe should have checked the definition of “bastard,” but still…

  2. Go ThunderClan -  November 21, 2013 - 9:25 pm

    I came here to look something up and now I forgot what it was. These comments always distract me. :-) Dictionary.com’s blog is my Facebook. Thank you, Dictionary.com, for helping me find a way to spend an hour on the Internet.

  3. Go ThunderClan -  November 21, 2013 - 9:21 pm

    Hot dogs are yummy. My writing teacher once was talking about other words you can use instead of “like” because it’s so overused, and one of them was “relish.” He said, “I can’t relish a hot dog without relish.” :-) I like my hot dogs with just ketchup (and plenty of it.).

    I like hamburgers more than hot dogs. I like them hot and juicy, with melted cheddar cheese, fresh lettuce, crispy bacon, lots of ketchup, and maybe even a pretzel bun. :-D Mmmm…

    I never knew there were hot dog historians. So, are there pizza historians too? :-P

    If you speak English as a 2nd language, you may ignore this comment. You are excused. If English is your 1st language: Does LDay mean “Lord’s Day”? And if so, what in StarClan does that have to do with hot dogs? You’ve got some nerve posting a comment riddled with spelling and grammar errors on a dictionary website. There’s spell check for a reason. You are only human, and allowances could be made for a couple typos, but 12 grammar errors and half a dozen spelling mistakes?! Maybe you should spend more time learning how to write correct English. This is not a video game chat box, nor is it a texting forum.

    I agree. Sounds gross. Who could ever eat tofu again? Bleh.

  4. Will -  April 5, 2012 - 1:42 am

    Why is everyone talking about William’s comment?
    This is an article about Hot-Dogs, HOT-DOGS, dude!
    The world is hopeless…

  5. Liz -  April 4, 2012 - 3:05 pm

    ‘Rotten bean’… that’s lovely.

  6. anonymous -  October 19, 2011 - 5:31 am

    i think its funny that almost every comment has something wrong with it.

  7. Andrew -  October 16, 2011 - 3:20 am

    Anyone know of the origin of “red hots?” That’s what hot dog vendors used to shout at baseball games… “Red hots! Get your red hots heeeeeerrrre!” Perhaps it just sounded better than “hot dogs?”

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