I'm Irish, and hence speak Hiberno-English. Here is a photograph of some sliced bread:

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?

  • 5
    It's the heel in American English too.
    – jimreed
    Commented Aug 16, 2011 at 17:25
  • @rory -- it's the "doupie", do you use that one?
    – Fattie
    Commented Aug 16, 2011 at 20:16
  • Another interesting more American one is "butt-end". Also for the, well, butt-end of perhaps a ham or other roast meat. (The last, or perhaps first, slice.)
    – Fattie
    Commented Aug 16, 2011 at 20:20
  • 4
    I'm English and when I first met my Irish wife this one caused confusion / hilarity, especially when combined with the Irish term 'pan' for a loaf of bread e.g. "can you get me the heel from that pan"
    – tinyd
    Commented Aug 17, 2011 at 9:13
  • 1
    @JoeBlow Only a down-at-heel gentleman-of-the-road would harvest a discarded 'butt-end" and that would be to satisfy his addiction to nicotine. I don't want to be a heel, but I have to declare that such practices are a tad nauseating. Perish the thought! Commented Oct 13, 2016 at 4:51

8 Answers 8


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.)

  • 5
    I would certainly agree with crust. Lived most of my life in North-East England and have never heard the term heel before and wouldn't have had a clue what you were talking about. Straw-poll of those nearby suggests it's NOT a commonly understood phrase (out of a dozen people, only an Irishman had heard it before)
    – SteveM
    Commented Aug 16, 2011 at 18:18
  • For the record PLL, I have never ever heard the doupie called the "crust". (i.e., have never, ever, heard the dual meaning you describe.) So perhaps, very regional?
    – Fattie
    Commented Aug 16, 2011 at 20:18
  • Interesting — yes, perhaps! And I in turn have never heard doupie — where does that term come from?
    – PLL
    Commented Aug 17, 2011 at 2:08

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".

  • 1
    Interesting. They have unsliced bread in England? Next you'll be telling me it isn't white and as squishy as Play-Doh either. :-)
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Aug 16, 2011 at 22:40
  • I had no choice but buy a sliced loaf on Sunday, because that was all they had left before they closed (yes, our mediaeval laws mean that even 24-hour stores have to close for most of Sunday). But it's a long time since the last time I did.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Aug 17, 2011 at 13:33

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.

  • 1
    I would say it's only known in BE as an American import. I never heard it in northern English before living in the USA
    – mgb
    Commented Oct 20, 2011 at 4:17
  • 6
    Well, OED has it in Piers Plowman 1362, a bit early for an American import...
    – GEdgar
    Commented Jun 30, 2012 at 17:18

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.

  • Fascinating - in Scotland that word sounds more like "dowpy" or perhaps "doopy"
    – Fattie
    Commented Oct 13, 2016 at 10:07

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.

  • I tried Googling for references but didn't find any :(
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Apr 5, 2014 at 18:59

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.

  • 1
    Welcome to EL&U. The question is about terminology in British English, not in the U.S. If you are unfamiliar with Stack Exchange, please note that this is not a discussion forum, but a Q&A site; the site tour and help center will offer additional guidance.
    – choster
    Commented Jul 22, 2014 at 18:49
  • Do you mean "descendants" of European immigrants? It would be useful to show some link to current British-English usage.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Jul 22, 2014 at 21:47

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.

  • Yes, I was feeling this was used in the North of England...
    – Jelila
    Commented Jan 15, 2018 at 0:25

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