When I started to learn English, my teacher told me dumplings is a translation for Chinese 饺子 (a food, also widely found in Japan or Korea). But after a few years, I was surfing on the internet and get the information that dumplings actually can be used for all kinds dough-wrapped-with-inner-filling food.

So, what do English native speakers think exactly of this word? If I have a shepherd's pie or 包子 or 烧卖, can I call them “dumplings”?

Edit: Some images showing what I'm talking about.Do they considered as dumplings? 饺子包子烧卖Maube Indian foodMight be Fried thingMight be french food

  • 2
    Most native speakers don't speak Chinese, so you need to describe what you mean by those Chinese words.
    – Laurel
    Sep 13 '18 at 3:00
  • I haven't voted to close, but I think this question would be better received if you didn't ask us to classify a bunch of different foods as dumplings or not. Sep 13 '18 at 16:28
  • Avoid answers in comments. They cannot be community edited or peer reviewed. This discourages people from posting actual answers and defeats the core answer ranking process. A better place to post an answer is in the answer box. See: Privileges > Comment Everywhere – Help Center. See also: Is SE enforcing “no answers in comments”? – Meta
    – MetaEd
    Sep 13 '18 at 19:24
  • Use comments to ask for more information or suggest improvements. Avoid other discussion in comments. A better place for conversation or discussion using the question as a springboard is our English Language & Usage Chat.
    – MetaEd
    Sep 13 '18 at 19:26
  • @神秘德里克 Consider making two edits. First, remove the pictures. They make the question a request to classify each picture as a dumpling or not. Second, add your own research. Questions should detail the effort you have already made to find an answer, solutions you have already rejected, and why. Research can take many forms: checking references such as an online English dictionary, thesaurus, or grammar, searching this site for similar questions, and searching the web. See: “How much research is needed? – EL&U Meta”.
    – MetaEd
    Sep 13 '18 at 19:30

In the UK, whilst most people will understand that 'Asian / Chinese' dumplings are some kind of food, wrapped in dough, plain-old dumplings are something else far more ordinary.

A dumpling, in the UK, is a ball of self-raising flour and suet (shredded hard animal or vegetable fat) bound with water, which is cooked in a stew, so that it takes on the flavour of the dish and becomes light and fluffy.

So, to directly answer your question. I would say that whilst your teacher was correct, in that the English-speaking world would call 饺子, 'Dumplings', I think that's simply because that's the nearest match we have. It is not a catch-all word for every dish which consists of dough / pastry with a filling.

As an aside, IMHO, beef stew & dumplings is one of the finest dishes in the world! enter image description here

  • 5
    There you go, this shows that dumpling is not a direct translation but an "English" word that has existed for hundreds of years.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Sep 13 '18 at 7:33
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    Perhaps this is different each side of the pond. You describe perfectly the only things I would consider dumplings. The first 3 pictures in the OP I would call won ton, never dumplings, though if someone called them "Chinese Dumplings" I would probably understand what they meant.
    – Tetsujin
    Sep 13 '18 at 8:49
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    I'm from Australia and I've never heard of your British style dumplings - it's definitely not something the whole English speaking world would know of. Sep 13 '18 at 12:06
  • This is fairly consistent with my experience in the Midwest US, except that our prototypical dumpling dish is chicken and dumplings (aka "chicken 'n' dumplins"—basically chicken soup with dumplings dropped in), and our dumpling dough can use a variety of fats (I prefer butter).
    – 1006a
    Sep 13 '18 at 17:43
  • Use comments to ask for more information or suggest improvements. Avoid other discussion in comments. A better place for conversation or discussion using the answer as a springboard is our English Language & Usage Chat.
    – MetaEd
    Sep 13 '18 at 19:32

To go through your examples in order (I've provided Wikipedia links for everyone to see what they look like):

  • 餃子 (Jiaozi) — Yes, I'd call that a dumpling.
  • Shepherd's pie — No, that's not wrapped in dough, so it definitely isn't a dumpling.
  • 包子 (Baozi) — No, I wouldn't call that a dumpling.
  • 烧卖 (Shumai) — Yes, I would call that a dumpling.
  • Ravioli — I wouldn't usually call that a dumpling, but it is.

In my experience (I'm an American from Southern California), "dumpling" is used only to describe Asian foods that are wrapped in noodle dough (not bread dough). That's why I wouldn't call baozi or ravioli dumplings, even though Wikipedia says they are. But "dumpling" is a pretty vague term, and it doesn't refer to any specific dish, so there is no line everyone will agree on. That said, if you tell someone around here "I ate dumplings yesterday," they will most likely think of jiaozi.

  • Is dumpling even a native word for English? Before Asian food get into America's(or Canada or British) market, what kind of food would be called dumplings? Besides, I don't even know there's difference between noodle dough and bread dough, aren't they all made of wheat? Sep 13 '18 at 7:29
  • According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the first known use was around 1600, when there were barely Europeans in the Americas. English was very different back then, so I have no idea. Sep 13 '18 at 7:35
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    @PunctualEmoticon your statement "if you tell someone 'I ate dumplings yesterday,' they will most likely think of jiaozi" is incorrect, as the meaning of "dumplings" is strongly regional. In Australia, I would most likely think of balls of flour/suet (no filling) in a stew. If you said "no, think again", I might go for gnocchi. If you showed me the picture and said "well, what do you call these?", I'd say "oh, you mean Chinese dumplings! We call them wontons, or the bigger mass-produced ones we call dim sims." Sep 13 '18 at 8:14
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    @Chappo I thought it was implied that my answer only applied to the United States, but I'll update it to be more clear. Sep 13 '18 at 8:30
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    @1006a No, I'd never heard of that. I'm from Southern California. I guess I'll update my answer to be more regionally-specific. Sep 15 '18 at 6:11

I'm posting this as community wiki, because I'm borrowing heavily from other answers & comments.

According to Wikipedia

Dumpling is a broad classification for a dish that consists of pieces of dough (made from a variety of starch sources) wrapped around a filling or of dough with no filling. The dough can be based on bread, flour, or potatoes, and may be filled with meat, fish, cheese, vegetables, fruits, or sweets. Dumplings may be prepared using a variety of methods, including baking, boiling, frying, simmering, or steaming, and are found in many world cuisines.

However, from the myriad sections underneath that definition & the myriad comments & answers here, it seems that every country has its own definition.

To someone from the UK, a dumpling is a quite specific culinary delight, made from suet & flour & cooked in the steam coming from the stew it accompanies.

The Southern US has a similar dish, (beef or) chicken & dumplings

but it also has a variant that is more akin to a pasta

As soon as you move away from the 'English-speaking West' then dumplings take on more variety.

To the rest of the world, 'dumplings' become more of a 'container' for interesting foods - presumably originally because it makes them easier to pick up & eat.

The 'west' has these too - they simply don't call them dumplings.

A traditional Cornish Pasty - designed so a Cornish miner could eat it by holding the excess pastry so as not to get dirt on his dinner. The outer crust 'ring' would be discarded afterwards, but the entirety of the crust & filling from the inner section would be eaten.

enter image description here

Or there is the more generic pie, which can pretty much contain anything that will stay still long enough to wrap it in pastry

enter image description here

A Shepherd's pie is a 'special case' as by most other definitions it's not really a pie - it sneaks in because it [usually] has meat in gravy underneath & something akin to a pie-crust made of potato.

You can argue forever over what should actually be under the potato - some insist that because it says 'shepherd' it must be lamb & then define the beef version as 'cottage pie'.
Others don't care what the purists say & call anything made in this style shepherd's pie - I picked a veggie version for this picture [just to be contrary]

So, the "answer to the question" is, yes, they could be called dumplings - but not by all native English speakers.

To sum up my own opinion, as a Brit, this is what I make of the 6 pictures you posted. Note: I have no real knowledge of Chinese food, so my perception will necessarily be skewed by that.

None of the following are dumplings to me...

This, to me, is Gyoza - which I know from Japan

The next two are just 'dim sum' I couldn't identify them to any greater degree [nor would I be certain that broad classification is even correct to someone more au fait with the cuisine.
If someone described these as 'Chinese dumplings' I would probably guess what they mean, but it's not what I would ever call them.

Ravioli - the most generic term is simply "pasta"

This might need more 'specialist' knowledge, but most Brits eat Indian food - lots of it, so these are Samosas. If anything, you'd call it a 'pastry'

This is - almost - a Cornish pasty. Definitely a pasty of some sort.

  • @Tetsujin some additions you may want to add if you have time (if not, I'll try when I have time): empanadas for the thick pastry section (I'm aware of Spanish and Argentinian variants, the former is more of a thin pie, often filled with tomato sauce and tune, and cut into rectangles when served; and the latter is shaped more like a Pasty, filled with all sorts of tasty things) and manti for the thin light dough section (from Turkey, these are typically filled with minced lamb or beef, and served as a main dish with a mint sauce on top)
    – Aaron F
    Sep 13 '18 at 18:35
  • Use comments to ask for more information or suggest improvements. Avoid answering questions in comments. Avoid comments which merely praise a post’s usefulness. Please do not use comments for debate. A better place for conversation or discussion using the question as a springboard is our English Language & Usage Chat (or, when one exists, the chatroom attached to the post itself).
    – MetaEd
    Sep 13 '18 at 19:47

In the south (US), if you say "dumplings", most people would think of "chicken and dumplings", which is similar to the British dish mentioned above (biscuit dough balls boiled in chicken broth). We usually call Chinese dumplings "potstickers" (which I guess are technically slightly different from dumplings).

  • though what you call "biscuit dough" could suggest to English (UK) ears something more like what you think of as "cookie dough" (Scots may differ)
    – Henry
    Sep 13 '18 at 17:27
  • @Henry - I agree, 'biscuit' in this context is very definitely a US usage; it's not really a 'known food' in the UK.
    – Tetsujin
    Sep 13 '18 at 18:50
  • "Potstickers" is also a common term in California for steamed pasta-like filled Chinese or Korean dumplings.
    – Sven Yargs
    Sep 18 '18 at 4:31

I think the basic definition of a dumpling is "anything that's shaped out of a dough and boiled in water". This excludes ravioli (not shaped out of dough but wrapped with rolled out dough) and pie (not boiled in water). Yes, gnocchi are technically dumplings. The German term is "Knödel" and has exactly the same definition.

  • 1
    Dumpling type foods don't need to be boiled - they can be also baked, fried, steamed...
    – J...
    Sep 13 '18 at 12:59
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    Many types of dumplings are made of filling wrapped in rolled-out dough. That’s not a disqualifying feature; in fact I would have said it’s almost part of the basic definition, even though the traditional suet dumplings don’t fit. Sep 13 '18 at 13:26
  • Is that German term pronounced "noodle"?
    – Lawrence
    Sep 13 '18 at 14:08
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    @Lawrence No, it’s pronounced as written: /ˈknøːdəl/. The words are not related to each other; the German for ‘noodle’ is Nudel, which is pronounced like ‘noodle’. Sep 13 '18 at 14:14
  • 2
    @Lawrence no, noodle has an sound, like "blue", "too", "shoe"... knödel is ø, which is rare in English. The ir sound in "bird" is close in some English dialects (SA, NZ, some UK regional accents...). You would hear it in French in words like "deux" (two).
    – J...
    Sep 13 '18 at 18:24

Expanding upon SiHa's answer, In the USA, we've further confused the matter of "dumpling" by saying that the following two dishes are "dumplings":

Chicken and Dumplings (flat style)

Chicken and Dumplings (round style, similar but not identical to SiHa's dish):

Both of these are very delicious, however, neither wraps up anything at all.


what about mo:mo ? Popular dumplings in Nepal and originally its from Tibet i think. Its a popular fast food of Nepal, that you can find in every streets, and also in Nepalese restaurants in abroad.

enter image description here

  • 3
    That's not an answer, just another question. Sep 13 '18 at 12:25
  • I am giving an answer, but by making a question firstly!
    – K. Dumre
    Sep 13 '18 at 14:32
  • This does not answer the question, which, more or less, is "what does the word dumpling mean in English".
    – MetaEd
    Sep 13 '18 at 19:48

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