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What do we call the food seen in the picture? Is it bread, loaf, or dough?


7 Answers 7


"Dough" is what we call the raw, prepared bread mixture before it is cooked.

A "loaf" is what we call a whole, cooked leavened bread, made with yeast so that it rises. This is the kind normally prepared in a baking tin and most common in western cultures. A loaf is normally cut into slices for serving. Wikipedia defines a "loaf" as "a shape, usually a rounded or oblong mass of food, typically and originally of bread".

The type of bread you picture is a flatbread. These are unleavened bread; that is they have no yeast in them so they do not rise. There are many different names for these in different cultures, for example, Indian roti or chapatti, or Mexican tortillas. Others have a tiny little bit of leaven added such as Indian naan or Greek pita.

  • 7
    Very good answer. I would add that a "loaf" is distinguished by its shape -- usually a rectangular box. A baguette is also a loaf. Commented Apr 8, 2019 at 10:16
  • 9
    @whiskeychief: as is a cottage loaf, a boule, a ciabatta according to some. Loaves come in all sorts of shapes.
    – SamBC
    Commented Apr 8, 2019 at 10:30
  • These are unleavened breads. Flatbreads are all different. Not all made from wheat. Tortillas are originally made from corn.
    – Lambie
    Commented Apr 8, 2019 at 13:47
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    I've often seen bags of unleavened flatbread (pitas, chapati, etc) sold with their count given in 'loaves' (ie: a bag with 6 pitas labelled Quantity: 6 loaves). As a native speaker it stands out as somewhat unusual, surely, but the use does seem to be out there.
    – J...
    Commented Apr 8, 2019 at 15:01
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    I've also heard 'loaf' to describe anything vaguely loaf-of-bread shaped, like 'meatloaf' (a food) and cats described as 'loaves' as well.
    – user34154
    Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 0:02

It is called chapati (plural chapatis). It originated in the Indian subcontinent and is a common staple food there. It is also known as roti, safati, shabaati, phulka, or roshi.

It is an unleavened bread, i.e., it is not made up of yeast in its purest form. However, variants like naan, bhatoora, and kulcha are leavened.

  • 19
    @xeesid: We often, in English, use the native words for foods that we've imported. Bolognese sauce, even if it doesn't much resemble authentic bolognese, isn't called soffritto-mince-and-tomato sauce, and soffritto isn't called celery-onion-and-carrot. We use native south Asian words for a lot of south Asian foods.
    – SamBC
    Commented Apr 8, 2019 at 10:28
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    In Britain we sometimes spell it chapatti. It is a word we use. We have poppadums, parathas, and naans too. Generically, chapatis are a type of flatbread. Commented Apr 8, 2019 at 11:30
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    In American English this might get called a tortilla by someone not familiar with chapatis. Mexican food and tortillas are very common over here, and Indian food is extremely uncommon, so I didn't know what a chapati was until reading this answer and would have guessed they were tortillas!
    – Hearth
    Commented Apr 8, 2019 at 12:36
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    @MichaelHarvey And, to follow on, the word naan, for example, is just an old Persian loanword (نان‎) that means bread.
    – J...
    Commented Apr 8, 2019 at 15:05
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    Wheat tortillas are incredibly common in the US; to make matters worse, "tortilla" means an entirely different thing between Mexico (where it's a corn-based flatbread), America (where it's a wheat-based flatbread, with "corn tortilla" to specify the Mexican version), and Spain (where it's an egg dish).
    – fluffy
    Commented Apr 8, 2019 at 19:48

Question: What do we call the food seen in the picture? Is it bread, loaf, or dough?

Answer: none of those.

Those are flatbreads, a generic term. There are many kinds of flatbreads around the world.

  • dough is for uncooked flour of any kind, mixed with water or other ingredients to make breads, cakes or other baked edibles.
  • a loaf of bread is a very specific thing.

This is a loaf of bread.

loaf from GlobalHealthNow.org

[please note: they are many answers with correct information, but I tried to answer it as simply as possible. The picture does the trick. It shows a loaf of bread that has been sliced. Also, note that we say one loaf of bread, two loaves of bread.]

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    "Is it bread, loaf, or dough?" "none of those." - Is a flatbread not a bread? I would certainly say it is
    – user75908
    Commented Apr 8, 2019 at 19:30
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    @NickA It is not a bread or a loaf. It is bread, flatbread. It is a type of bread. The devil is in the detail.
    – Lambie
    Commented Apr 8, 2019 at 21:59
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    There are contexts where you can talk of "a bread" ("Pumpernickel is a bread made in Germany from coarsely ground rye") - but it means "a kind of bread". Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 8:27
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    if you would describe flatbread you would most certainly start with "flatbread is a bread ... ". so I would definitely say it is a bread
    – Ivo
    Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 8:41
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    You certainly wouldn't say "could I have a bread please?" when asking for one of these... "could I have a (chapati, tortilla, etc)?" or "could I have ['a piece of', or 'some'] flatbread please?" would both work better.
    – Doktor J
    Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 14:57

Specifically, that's chapati (as a transliteration there are various spellings, that's the usual one I've seen and what Google thinks is 'right', presumably based on usage in its index). As we imported the concept, we imported the word. Actually, a lot of now-native English words that aren't for food come from South Asian origins - bungalow, jodhpurs, bangle, bandanna, veranda, avatar, among others - thanks to the colonial (imperialist) history of the British Empire. Some for food, like chutney, come from South Asian origins but are used more broadly than the original meaning.

This is a sort of bread, which means pretty much anything made from a savoury dough, usually but not always from grain flour, that has a relatively soft or flexible consistency. There are also things known as bread that aren't soft at all, but that's more unusual and often derivative, such a crispbreads, which are a sort of cracker. A bread usually has the sort of structure that's created by developing the gluten in the grain, as achieved by working the dough.

A discrete unit of bread that isn't eaten in one go, but is separate from any other pieces that it is cooked with, is a loaf. This might be tin loaves, as found most often nowadays in the Anglosphere, which have a more-or-less rectangular cross-section and are cut into slice to eat, or more traditional free-form loaves popular in mainland Europe, and as historically traditional breads in Britain and Ireland, like cobs and boules, or other sorts of definitely shaped loaves like bloomers and sticks (such as baguettes and ficelles, mostly associate with France). Loaves are generally made from leavened bread - bread that has had gas pockets introduced by yeast or by another raising agent, such as bicarbonate of soda combined with an acid, such as buttermilk or cream of tartar. This gives is the 'bready' consistency expected in most of western Europe.

Bread that isn't a loaf might be a roll (or bap, barm, bun, muffin1, barm cake, or cob - yes, there's a sort of loaf called a cob and it's a regional term for a smaller piece of bread), a generic term for a single-serving of leavened bread. Here in Britain, which term is used as the generic depends on where you are, and sometimes your class-cultural background. Then there's specific types of roll - like sub rolls, baps (yes, some places that's a specific sort of roll), petit pains (itself a French term, but I don't know if they use that phrase specifically the way we do in English), or rolls that are based on a specific type of loaf, like a ciabatta roll. In some parts of the country, the generic term only refers to small bread items with a soft crust, and in others it doesn't matters whether it's soft or crusty.

Bread that isn't leavened (that is, it is unleavened), and some bread that is leavened but that doesn't end up the the same sort of texture (usually because it's so thin), is usually flatbread. This also sometimes includes the Italian focaccia, despite it having a bready texture, because of how it's served and eaten. Most, if not all, of the South Asian breads known in Britain are flatbreads - chapati, puri, naan, paratha, roti (and whether roti and chapati are the same thing appears to be a matter of detbate). We also commonly see tortillas, a Spanish-derived soft flatbread most associated with Latin America, pitta (which we think of as Greek, but is common all around the eastern Mediterranean), lavash (I've encountered that in Turkish restaurants, but it's common across southwest Asia), and a few others are known but not common. There are multiple Italian flatbreads, some soft and not bready, and some that are a leavened dough spread out thin so, while the inside has a bready texture, there's very little 'inside' to speak of.

So, that picture shows chapatis, a kind of flatbread, which is a category of bread. They are unleavened, and like a lot of soft, flexible, unleavened flatbreads they are either wrapped around food to make a 'wrap', or torn into pieces and used to pick up other food. I have no idea if both of those are authentic uses in South Asia, though. They are not loaves, nor are they rolls (or baps, buns, etc).

Finally, dough is made from flour and fat and/or watery liquid(s), and possibly other ingredients, and is what bread (and pastry, and some sorts of cake) are made from. Batter is the same sort of thing, but thinner; some consider batter to be dough think enough to pour. Neither term is used once it has been cooked, except in the some sorts of batter when you make "batter coated" food, like the fish in British fish and chips. There, the cooked batter is a distinct component from the rest of the food, so you might talk about it. Cake batter or pancake batter is never called batter after it is cooked, and dough isn't called dough once it's cooked - though it might be a bread or cake product that incorporates the word dough into the name, like dough balls or doughnuts.

1: not to be confused with the two other types of baked good referred to as muffins. Confusing, eh?

  • I considered adding some explanation of the fuzzy area between bread and pastry found in things like Viennoiserie, and between bread and cake found in some Germanic baking, but I thought that would be excessive.
    – SamBC
    Commented Apr 8, 2019 at 12:45

I would call it either flatbread or a wrap. Loaves [the plural of "loaf"] are big pieces of bread which can be sliced. Dough is uncooked bread, although dough can be for pastries or cookies too.

  • "Wrap" is a modern American word that usually refers to the entire sandwich made with a wheat flour tortilla. In most circumstances it would seem odd to call a chapati or a tortilla a "wrap".
    – J...
    Commented Apr 8, 2019 at 15:07
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    @J... When I get a wrap sandwich I usually say whatever sandwich in a plain/wheat/tomato/spinach wrap. I've never heard of chapati. Tortilla makes me think of corn flour wraps, but for wheat flour tortillas I feel like they are indistinguishable from what I think of as a wrap. I'm from Massachusetts though maybe it's different in other parts of the US. The thing in the picture looks like a wrap to me.
    – jreese
    Commented Apr 8, 2019 at 16:36
  • Either way, what Americans call a "wrap" is a very new usage (like, late 90s new) and refers to a sandwich rolled in a specific kind of machine-manufactured flour tortilla which is scarcely like the chapati shown in the question.
    – J...
    Commented Apr 8, 2019 at 17:15
  • If they are learning English they should use modern English? I've never in 30 years heard of chapati and the thing in the picture is what I would call a wrap or a tortilla. The wrap is the bread, the thing you wrap the meat/cheese/vegetables in. If somebody asked me for a chapati I would have no clue what they're talking about, but if they asked for a wrap or a tortilla I would show them the thing in the picture. Even flatbread is debatable because most of the flatbread I get is rectangular.
    – jreese
    Commented Apr 8, 2019 at 20:18
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    By modern I only mean that an American wrap is a specific type of food which did not exist more than 25 years ago. When you use that word, others interpret it to mean that specific kind of sandwich. It's as wrong as going to a Doner shop and ordering a "wrap" - a wrap isn't a Doner. It isn't a pita, it isn't a kebab, it isn't a chapati, it isn't a carnita, it isn't shwarma, it isn't a gyro. It's a sandwich wrapped in an American flour tortilla. You can certainly use those words in place of each other and mostly be understood, but at the expense of seeming provincial in your vocabulary.
    – J...
    Commented Apr 8, 2019 at 20:34

This is called "Chapatti (or Chapati)" in both east and west. So do not worry to use it directly in your sentence.

Although a Chapati is also called "Roti" in some regions of India, but Chapati is universally accepted term for "a thin pancake of unleavened wholemeal bread cooked on a griddle", Which is exactly what your image depicts.

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    Speaking as an American who is on the savvier side regarding international cuisine I would not immediately recognize the word “chapati,” nor does that come up as an autocorrect suggestion on my phone. Thus, I don’t believe it’s very commonly used here. I’d suggest roti as more recognizable to an American audience, or perhaps the generic term “flatbread” or the inaccurate but recognizable “naan.”
    – fluffy
    Commented Apr 8, 2019 at 12:47
  • A Chapati (shown in the picture) is the type of "Roti". There is Plain Roti, Butter Roti, Rumali Roti, Laccha Roti/Paratha and a few more which I don't remember right now. The Plain Roti is very common in Indian households, and so is it's name Chapati which exactly depicts the given picture.
    – RC0993
    Commented Apr 8, 2019 at 12:56
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    @fluffy In Europe "roti" in the context of food but not necessarily Indian cuisine could easily be mistaken for French “rôti” which is something completely different (i.e. roast meat).
    – alephzero
    Commented Apr 8, 2019 at 13:30
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    At first glance I thought the photo was of flour tortillas (being of low resolution, and not being able to sense its thickness or aroma). Latin American food is much more common in the U.S. than South Asian food, so most Americans will default to tortilla for any round unleavened flatbread (and pita for a lightly leavened flatbread). If you informed me the food was South Asian in origin, like fluffy, my first instinct would be to say roti; chapati is a much less common term.
    – choster
    Commented Apr 8, 2019 at 17:24
  • @fluffy The difference between roti and chapati is perhaps like the difference between pasta and penne - there are both regional as well as class/instance differences between the terms. There are multiple answers accurately calling the item in the image 'chapatis'.
    – Pranab
    Commented Apr 10, 2019 at 3:11

I see a lot of people asking what it can be called in English (American and British) and it should be called roti or chappati in English as well. Inventions originating and heavily used in one country retains their name, for example: pasta, risotto, gyro, hummus, falafel, etc.

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