Is The End Piece Of Bread The Heel, The Butt, Or Neither?

Everyday people are the ultimate arbiters of language. If we use words often enough, then it's inevitable that they will end up in dictionaries. This is an important point to keep in mind regarding the ongoing debate over bread nomenclature. The end pieces found in every loaf of sliced bread have an official name, that being the one listed in dictionaries. But that's not necessarily the name used in common conversation, which means its status may eventually be challenged.

The correct term for the end pieces is heel. This is confirmed by none other than the Cambridge Dictionary, which defines these pieces as "the end part of something, especially of a loaf of bread, that is usually left after the rest has been eaten or used." It's an insightful definition, in that it not only locates these bread pieces relative to other slices, it also notes how often they're the last ones left.

The heel's poor reputation may have something to do with its official name. After all, the word can also be used to refer to a bad person. Such derogation is also evident in the other words commonly used to refer to these end pieces, and that one day may make it into dictionaries in this context, too. Words like butt, for example.

Which word for bread end pieces is the people's choice?

American common usage should play a big part in determining the proper word for sliced bread end pieces. Sliced bread, after all, was invented in the U.S. in 1928. But British conversational usage seems to play a big part, too. It was a British actor and comedian, Stephen Mangan, who jumpstarted the debate over the term heel when he omitted this term in a social media post about the topic back in 2018. Mangan mentioned end pieces, but it wasn't until he was called out by followers that he asserted heel's correctness and noted some of the varied terms he had heard for these pieces (including butt, bum, crust, and knob end).

How did so many words for these end pieces develop, and how much does one's country or region affect the preferred term? Sadly, there has not been a research study on the topic. All we have is a Reddit survey, reported on by Allrecipes in 2021. This survey did not subdivide responses according to geography, but it did show that heel is the favored word for these end pieces among the English-speaking populace, followed by end and butt. Rump and bum were also mentioned, suggesting some equate bread anatomy with human anatomy. 

Breadmakers prefer heel, too

However, the debate is over for now. Not only have dictionaries conclusively chosen heel as the correct name for these end pieces, but bakeries, the companies who make slice bread, prefer the word heel, too. "It's the heel," a spokesperson from Bimbo Bakeries U.S.A told Today when queried on the topic. It was a definitive declaration, given that it's the largest bakery company in the country — operating brands such as Arnold, Brownberry, Orowheat, and Sara Lee — and its parent company, Mexico-based Grupo Bimbo, is the largest bakery company in the world.

Thus heel is firmly ensconced as the official term for these end pieces. No, they're not more nutritious than the rest of the loaf, and almost no one seems to like eating them. But their utility has been confirmed by bakers, who insist they help to keep bread loaves fresh. So don't throw them away. Once the other slices have been eaten, you can always repurpose the heels for breadcrumbs or croutons, or even turn them into homemade pizza.