Crumbs… who’d have guessed there are so many names for bread rolls?

Bread rollsFollowing on from my previous post on names for plimsolls, attention now turns to what we Brits call the humble bread roll.

As I suspected, there’s a far greater variety of names for bread rolls than there is for elasticated footwear. But I wasn’t prepared for quite how many…

Origin of the bread roll

A roll is a small – usually round – loaf of bread. It’s believed that the first roll was created in the south east of England in 1581.

Bakers in different towns and cities used to name their bread rolls according to how they made the dough, the size of the rolls and how they baked them. Over time, however, these differences merged. As a result, many similar products are now grouped under one name.

Although universally recognised throughout Britain, the word roll is somewhat generic: it doesn’t explain the type of roll being referred to. So additional words are sometimes used to describe the shape and/or texture, for example:

Bulkie roll – a crusty roll

Dinner roll – a small, crusty roll

Finger roll – a soft, long roll (ideal for hot dogs)

Kaiser roll / Vienna roll – a crusty round roll with four points meeting in the centre

Geographical variations

According to Jonnie Robinson, a curator at the British Library who specialises in accents and dialects: “Bread was historically a generic term for any baked item and ‘cake’ and ‘loaf’ originally referred to the shape of that ‘bread’, with ‘cake’ usually being smaller and ‘loaf’ meaning ‘large bread’. There are numerous words for ‘bread roll’ in use around the country and this explains why some include the word ‘cake’.

It’s great to see so many of these historic and regional terms still in use and I hope bakers around the country continue to help preserve these local distinctions.

Go into any bakery or café today and try to order a cheese roll. Or a bacon roll. If you don’t use the correct local term, there’s a good chance you’ll be corrected or even given the wrong item. I’d certainly never heard of a batch before until I came to nearby Coventry as a student.

Different names for bread rolls

My original intention when starting to write this post was to list the popular names for bread rolls by region. Or even to include a map. But online reference sources vary so much that I decided that was just asking for trouble!

A recent tweet I spotted highlighted this very conundrum:

Regional names for bread rolls

The ensuing replies threw up multiple conflicting opinions from all corners of the UK and further afield (including the fact that most people refer to the image shown here as a chip butty).

So instead I thought I’d present an alphabetical list of the 21 variants I’ve found so far:



Barm/Barm cake


Bin lid






Lardy cake

Morning roll




Oven bottom




Stotty/Stottie cake


If you’re interested in delving further into lexical variations for bread, you might like to check out this mapping project by Linguistics and English Language undergrad students at The University of Manchester.

Over to you

What do you call bread rolls where you live? And is that different from where you grew up?

I very much doubt if the above list is definitive, so if you have any additional names for bread rolls please do let me know in the comments below.

(Image courtesy of sritangphoto via

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8 comments on “Crumbs… who’d have guessed there are so many names for bread rolls?
  1. Rachel says:

    I’m from Essex and just call it a roll. If its crusty, I call it a crusty roll and if its soft, I call it a soft roll. I’ve lived in Devon where everyone called them baps, now I live in Southport and they’re called barms. It’s all so confusing for me but I’m convinced that what I call it is the correct way!

  2. Nigel Smith says:

    I grew up on the outskirts of Liverpool, and we used to have barms or barmcakes (same thing, just one is abbreviated), cobs, rolls, baps, batches and teacakes. Barms and baps were very similar – rolls with a very soft crust – but baps usually had a floury top. Cobs had a very crispy, almost shiny crust. Batch rolls were what they said they were – baked in a batch that slightly touched when rising, so that they were stuck together (usually in sixes) and had to be pulled apart, and were therefore somewhere between round and square. ‘Rolls’ tended to be a generic term for the differently shaped things made in knots or crescents or like miniature bloomers, and were the fancy breads you’d find dulling the appetite before the meal in a restaurant or at a family wake or wedding. Teacakes were another animal entirely – a wide, fruited roll that was always halved, toasted and served oozing with butter. That was a treat in the bus station tea room, after a Saturday morning being dragged round the shops with my parents.
    Additionally there were bridge rolls – a favourite of my grandmother – soft finger rolls that had to be torn apart because, like batch rolls, they were baked touching each other. They were always there, filled to make little torpedo shaped sandwiches, when gran decided to push the boat out and serve afternoon tea if there was a family get together.
    So for my money the different names aren’t solely regional – they refer to different styles and shapes of small bread products. Surely this would likely be the case in other parts of the country?

    • Geraldine says:

      Wow, this really must be the longest comment I’ve ever received on one of my posts. Thank you for going to all that trouble! It was really interesting to read all the different names for the ‘bread roll’ variants you grew up with. I take your point that the individual styles & shapes often have their own names (like bridge/finger rolls), but I was focusing on the regional variations for the standard ‘cheese roll’ or ‘bacon roll’ as sold in a bakery or cafe. That’s where I noticed the regional difference when I moved from the South West to the Midlands… “roll” becoming a “bap”.

  3. Esme says:

    I have always lived in the East Midlands, and I (and everyone else I know) would call it a cob.
    If you came to the East Midlands and called it anything else you would get a rather strange look. (Except maybe a bap).

  4. viv sayer says:

    Bara is simply the Welsh word for bread. Bara menyn means bread and butter. Rholyn is the word for a roll – plural rholion.

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