Chips, Crisps and Fries: Understanding the Lingo

Chances are, you’ve noticed that we refer to fries and chips a little differently. On our menu, we call fries ‘chips’ and chips, ‘crisps’. You might think that this is just a funny Wilde Rover quirk, but it’s actually the correct way to refer to these food items in some parts of the English-speaking world, namely (in our case), Ireland! In addition to offering authentic Irish cuisine, we like to keep our lingo authentic as well.


In Great Britain and Ireland, potato wedges that are fried and served hot are called ‘chips.’ Meanwhile, Americans refer to this food as ‘fries’ and instead, use the word ‘chips’ to designate thinly sliced potato that is fried and served cold or room temperature. According to the Oxford Dictionary blog, “Recipes for slender, crisp-fried potato slices first appeared [in America] in 1824. By the mid-nineteenth century, fried potato slices were called potato chips... In the late nineteenth century, when deep-fried julienne potatoes (potatoes cut into thin strips) became popular in England, they were still called ‘chips,’ ‘chip-potatoes’ or ‘fried chip-potatoes.’ To avoid confusion with the already popular potato chip, Americans used a variety of terms for these potato sticks—German fried potatoes, German fries, French fried potatoes, and French fries.” French fries became the favored term after the start of World War II, due to the desire not to associate with anything German.


The American understanding of chips is thinly sliced potatoes that are fried until they are crunchy and typically served cold or room temperature. In Ireland and Great Britain, this food is instead called ‘crisps’. “When American-style potato chips were introduced in Great Britain in the 1920s, to avoid confusion with the established term ‘chip potatoes’ they were called ‘potato crisps’ or simply ‘crisps’,” as the Oxford Dictionary blog points out.


Fries is now the shortened term (from ‘French fries’) for those toasty warm potato wedges that are often served at bars and restaurants as a signature side to a sandwich or burger. The Irish and the Brits sometimes refer to their chips as ‘fries’, but typically only when they are very thinly sliced potato wedges, which Americans might call ‘shoestring fries’. Thick potato wedges are always called chips in the U.K., however.

Craving a salty potato snack, yet? Come by Wilde Rover for your fill of chips OR crisps!

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