We’ve all relished a delicious sub sandwich, but have you ever paused to wonder why it’s called a “sub”? The elongated sandwich packed with meats, cheeses, veggies, and sauces holds more than just flavors; it holds a slice of history. Let’s unwrap the story behind the name.

The Origins of the Sub Sandwich
The sub sandwich, known by various names around the world – hoagie, hero, grinder, and more, originated in the United States. But why “sub”? The answer lies in its shape and a particular piece of naval equipment.

Submarines and Sandwiches
The “sub” in sub sandwich is an abbreviation for “submarine.” When you lay the sandwich and a submarine side by side, the resemblance in their elongated shapes is undeniable. The story goes that in the early 20th century, this sandwich became popular among workers at the submarine base in Groton, Connecticut. They began referring to it as a “submarine sandwich” due to its resemblance to the submarines they worked on. Over time, and with the natural evolution of language, it was shortened to “sub.”

Regional Variations and Names
The sub sandwich, while universally recognized, takes on various names depending on where you are:

  • Hoagie: Predominantly used in Philadelphia and parts of the East Coast.
  • Hero: Widely used in New York City.
  • Grinder: Common in New England, often emphasizing that the sandwich is toasted or contains hot ingredients.
  • Po’ Boy: A version from Louisiana, typically with fried seafood fillings.

The Universal Love for Subs
Beyond the name’s history, the sub sandwich’s appeal lies in its:

  • Versatility: From meats to vegan options, there’s a sub for every palate.
  • Convenience: Easy to eat on-the-go, it’s the quintessential fast food.
  • Customization: Many modern sub shops allow you to pick every ingredient, crafting a sandwich to your exact liking.

Names often carry stories, and the sub sandwich is no exception. From submarine bases to bustling city streets, the journey of this sandwich is as flavorful as its fillings. So, the next time you bite into a sub, remember, you’re not just savoring ingredients but also a rich tapestry of history and culture.


  1. Is there any difference between a hoagie and a sub?
    While they often refer to the same kind of sandwich, regional variations might mean slight differences in ingredients or bread.
  2. When did the sub sandwich become popular?
    The sub sandwich gained significant popularity in the United States during the early to mid-20th century.
  3. Are there any other theories about the name’s origin?
    While the submarine base story is the most widely accepted, some theories suggest that Italian immigrants coined the term. However, definitive evidence is limited.
  4. Why do some regions prefer toasted subs or “grinders”?
    Toasting or grilling can add a different texture and flavor profile to the sandwich, making it crispy on the outside and warm inside. Personal preferences and regional traditions play a role.
  5. How has the sub sandwich evolved over the years?
    From its basic form, the sub has evolved to incorporate various cuisines, ingredients, and dietary preferences, reflecting the global palate.