I'm Irish, and hence speak Hiberno-English. Here is a photograph of some sliced bread:
The topmost slice of this (that's crust on the end), is called "the heel". Is this meaning for "heel" understood in British English?
Further to what others have said, I (growing up in London and York) was familiar with heel to mean that slice, but it wasn’t common — the usual term for that slice was the crust. (So crust had a dual meaning for us — both the outside of the bread in general, and the slice at either end that consists mostly of crust.)
I wouldn't use it myself, but I have heard it - though in a slightly different sense. I wouldn't understand "the piece of a sliced loaf that happens to be the crust" so much as "an unsliced loaf from which all but a couple of slices have been cut".
Yes, it is understood in British English too; one of the meaning of heel reported by the NOAD and the OED is the following:
a crusty end of a loaf of bread, or the rind of a cheese.
I'm Irish but my parents are English. I'd certainly understand heel, but in our house it's called the dobie end. I have no idea what the origin of that phrase is.
I am Irish-American and both sets of my grandparents (raised by Irish immigrants) and my parents referred to the ends of a loaf of bread as the humbo.
60% of the US who are ancestors of European immigrants use the term "heel" for the end of a loaf of bread. It shows this amount on the US Dialect survey map. I found it on Google. Especially NJ and NY have used this word the most.
I understand the term heel but then, although growing up in London, I came from Irish parents.
I call it the heel, and I'm sure I learned that word from my mum who was born in Durham England. She 'came over' as a child with her parents and 3 sisters in 1920 or thereabouts, and ended up in Pennsylvania. I think all my cousins and nieces and nephews know the word 'heel' as it relates to a loaf of bread.
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