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One of the users on the page created by me asked this. Since the page is for non-native speakers, I don't think she'll get the answer. So, I'm asking it here. In her words...

What is your word for the Turkish sandwich filled with meat (kebab), salad and sauce? In German (and maybe in turkish too) it is "Döner". I am pretty sure there is another word for it in the US :) I found "doner" in an online dictionary but I am not sure if this is correct.

The sandwich bread is cut from a round bread and one quarter is filled.

Here it is:

enter image description here

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    This is interesting because I think who will understand the terminology will be very regional... I didn't ever hear about a döner until I went to Germany a few years ago but now we have a small chain of restaurants that are German inspired that sell "kebap", which is short for "döner kebap". – Catija Sep 1 '15 at 7:26
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    Maulik: I've got one word for that: delicious. :^) – J.R. Sep 1 '15 at 10:12
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    I am truly no expert on this, but AFAIK what you are depicting was invented by Turkish immigrants in Germany and thus does not originate in Turkey. – Wrzlprmft Sep 1 '15 at 20:36
  • Looking at all the answers and comments I think the lesson in this is just call it what YOU normally call it and educate others. After all, once upon a time kebab didn't exist in English (neither did sandwich mean bread and meat - it used to be a place). – slebetman Sep 2 '15 at 3:00

11 Answers 11

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There's the word gyro, which, according to NOAD, is:

a sandwich made with slices of spiced meat cooked on a spit, served with salad in pita bread.

Your picture doesn't look like a gyro, though, because of the bread. Usually, I'd expect a gyro to look more like this:

enter image description here

However, that's the closest commonly-used word that I can think of.

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    Yes, that's more common in much of the US, because we have more Greek restaurants than Turkish or other middle Eastern. As I understand it, "gyro" is the style of cooking, same as kebab, and pita is the Greek name for that style of flatbread. But Americans often call the whole thing a gyro, and multiple ones gyros. And often pronounce it not as yee-ro, but Jai-ro (because in English we have "gyroscope" and "gyroocopter" also from the same Greek root, (meaning rotate) which we pronounce with a J sound. – Brian Hitchcock Sep 1 '15 at 10:47
  • But we do have a few Döner Kebab (German style) and Kabab (Lebanese, etc) restaurants. Even the Persian restaurants call it kabab. Nice photo J.R. – Brian Hitchcock Sep 1 '15 at 10:50
  • The definition forgot to mention the sauce. I would be very disappointed if the gyro came without any Tzatziki. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Sep 1 '15 at 11:07
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    In the UK you're more likely to get this type of flat bread than the more fluffy one in the question. – Hugo Sep 1 '15 at 12:25
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    In the U.S. Pacific Northwest, we have gyros and shawarma sandwiches/shawarmas depending on what font the restaurant uses for their logo. – Adam Sep 1 '15 at 18:58
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Generally speaking, I'd simply call that a kebab. Perhaps more specifically, I might call it a doner kebab.

At least in the UK, the main focus is usually the filling (meat and sauces) rather than the bread or salad, as usually there's not really much choice of bread.

If you were in a takeaway selling them, you might be more specific and call it a doner kebab in pita, depending on what the menu says, to differentiate from other options, say, doner and chips, chicken doner kebab or lamb shish kebab.

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    In the U.S., we wouldn't call that a kebab. (Once it's off the stick, it's no longer a kebab. I can't speak for all Americans, but that's how I'd draw the lines. I might go for kabab sandwich, though, if the meat came off a kabab. – J.R. Sep 1 '15 at 10:10
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    Doner kebab in the UK usually specifically refers to the type of meat, the spicy processed lamb (or at least, you hope it's lamb) carved off a rotisserie. For this, I'd say just "kebab", or maybe "kebab sandwich" if you want to be specific that it's in bread like this with vegetables. – user56reinstatemonica8 Sep 1 '15 at 12:14
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    @user568458: in my experience this is rarely the case. While technically "Doner Kebab" should refer to the meat, it is rarely used in this way in the UK. If you asked for a "Doner Kebab", you would get a pita filled with meat, salad and sauce. If you ask for "Doner Meat", then you would get a pile of meat on it's own. – Gavin Coates Sep 1 '15 at 14:55
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    Doner Kebabs are a british staple, usually eaten at 3 o'oclock in the morning after a night on the town when anything looks nice to eat :-) – Steven Wood Sep 1 '15 at 15:16
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    I'd never heard of Doner kebabs before, but it makes me think of the Donner party, who got stranded on a pass in winter in Colorado in 1846, and turned to cannibalism. Yum. I'm just as glad they're called gyros where I live. – Karen Sep 1 '15 at 15:30
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In the US, that type of sandwich is usually referred to as a gyro if it has middle eastern style fillings, although it might also be called a pita. Pita refers to the flat, round bread used to make the sandwich, so a pita always uses pita bread, but might not have middle eastern fillings. Also in the US, pitas are usually smaller and less puffy, and a half is used to make a sandwich.

If it's a more traditional American style bulky roll with fillings (rarely including Tazhiki sauce), the word varies with region and filling. The ones I know are sub, grinder, hero, and gyro, and the exact meanings vary depending on where you go. Sub is probably the most universal.

In the US, kebab is used to refer to meat or vegetables cut into pieces and cooked on a stick, usually over a grill. It's in such wide usage that it's not considered particularly ethnic anymore.

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    This answer agrees best with the usage I'm most familiar with as a lifelong resident of the PNW (Pacific Northwest US--Oregon to be exact). I have never, even in Lebanese restaurants (of which there are many here), heard kebab used for anything not on a stick. I have almost always heard gyro meaning the sandwich pronounced "yee-roe," versus "jye-roe" short for gyroscope. There was a chain of Greek fast food restaurants common in shopping malls in the 1980s on the West Coast called "Gyros Gyros!", which I suppose might have helped Americans become more familiar with the term. – dodgethesteamroller Sep 1 '15 at 21:17
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In the UK, the general word for this sandwich is a kebab (which is the Turkish word for roasted meat).

In Germany, the general word for this sandwich is Döner, (which is the Turkish word for "rotary").

In the USA, the general word for this sandwich follows the Greek name and not the Turkish name. (Until recently, "Turkish" food wasn't widely available in the USA). We usually call it "a gyro" or "a gyros" (referring to the Greek word for "rotary")

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    +1 You might add that it was originally the meat which was called gyro(s), because it was cooked on a rotating spit. – StoneyB on hiatus Sep 1 '15 at 16:52
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I've seen this called "Original German Doner" in the City Mall in Muscat, Oman.

All Germans find that extremely funny, of course, but it makes sense as the thing was invented by Turkish immigrants here as already pointed out above. There was also some discussion about the bread used, so maybe I should add that some shops in Germany use pita bread and some use the sort of quartered flat bread pictured at the top (this of course leads to discussions among people as to what tastes better … the flat bread seems to be winning out in most cases, but the pita bread is considered easier to eat).

Edit: Doner is not to be confused with Shawarma (Arabic šāwarmā, Turkish çevirmek), which looks like this:

Shawarma

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    That thing really suffers from global NIH syndrome :) – Hagen von Eitzen Sep 2 '15 at 18:01
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I always call it Shawerma, which is also what it is called in Israel

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In western Canada, this is usually called a Donair. The meat is carved off of a vertical spit in strips, and the bread is a pita. It is frequently dressed with tzatziki.

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I've only ever heard this called a Döner Kebab, but perhaps this is because I have a German heritage. In any case, the ABA Turkish Restaurant for example lists Doner Kebab as one of their Main Courses, so it seems that this term is gaining prevalence.

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I (US) originally heard it called Döner Kebab, but that's probably because I first heard of it from people who had just visited Germany. Gyros are a different food, as far as I've been able to figure out (if they weren't, my friends would be much less excited when they found the rare place that sells Döner Kebabs, since gyros are much more common in the US).

The only store I've seen them sold in Döner Kebab, so it's pretty safe to guess that we here in the US have kept the original name (just like we kept the name for things like tortillas, gyros and sushi)

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The term you're looking for is Shawarma.

"Kebab" is the spit roasted meat which typically goes into a Shawarma, but can be anything like lamb, chicken, beef etc.

Colloquially it's called a Gyro, Döner Kebab, or simply Kebab. One thing they all have in common is that they are based on the humble yet delicious Shawarma.

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In parts of Australia it is called "yiros" (singular and plural), and the bread is pita bread.

  • Are you sure that's how it's spelled? Pretty sure that's the way "gyro" is pronounced in Greek. – Nathan Tuggy Feb 28 '18 at 3:22
  • @NathanTuggy The Greek word is "gyros" with an s (well, a sigma) though, given the pronunciation, it would make sense to transliterate it "yiros", though I don't know if that's common. I've no idea why American English removes the s. – David Richerby Nov 28 '18 at 21:24

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