Pancakes vs. Flapjacks vs. Hotcakes: How They Stack Up

stack of pancakes

Break out the maple syrup, because we are about to dig into some tasty stacks of pancakes, flapjacks, and hotcakes. But do these three words all refer to the same thing, or are there subtle differences? And what about griddlecakes?

In this article, we’ll serve up an explanation of how the words pancakes, flapjacks, hotcakes, and griddlecakes differ and how they overlap.

🥞 Quick summary

The words flapjacks, hotcakes, and griddlecakes are all used as synonyms for what are most generally and popularly called pancakes. Usage of some of these terms varies by region. While flapjacks is an informal nickname for pancakes, some people may use the terms hotcakes and griddlecakes to refer to specific types of pancakes. In the UK, the word flapjack refers to something entirely different—a baked good made from oats that resembles a granola bar.

pancakes vs. flapjacks

A pancake is a thin, flat cake that’s made by pouring batter into a pan—hence its name—and then flipping it so that both sides are cooked. Pancakes is a general term that’s applied to many slightly different preparations. For example, some may be very thin and others may be thicker and fluffier. And some may have additional ingredients mixed in, such as blueberries or chocolate chips.

In the US, Canada, and some other places, the word flapjacks is used as an informal synonym of pancakes, with usage of either term typically depending on regional preferences. In the UK, the word pancakes refers to the same thing, but the word flapjacks refers to something entirely different: a baked good made from oats, resembling what elsewhere may be called a granola bar or oat bar.

The word flapjack is traced back to the late 1500s. It’s a combination of the verb flap, in the sense similar to flip or toss, and jack, which comes from the proper name (a variation of John) and is sometimes used in the names of objects, as in applejack or skipjack.

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hotcakes vs. pancakes

In both the US and UK, the term hotcakes is used as a synonym of pancakes. The word hotcakes is often used for marketing or branding reasons (it just sounds delicious, right?), such as by the fast food chain McDonald’s, which uses the name hotcakes for their pancakes.

Speaking of marketing, the word hotcakes is commonly used in the idiom sell like hotcakes (or go like hotcakes), which uses hotcakes in the same sense and means to sell (or run out) very quickly—picture pancakes being sold as soon as they’re made, stack after stack.

What are griddlecakes?

Griddlecakes is another (less common) synonym for pancakes. The word griddle in the name commonly refers to a specific type of frying pan, often a square one with raised edges that’s commonly used for cooking pancakes (and other things).

Out of the pan, into the freezer with this look at ice cream, gelato, frozen yogurt, and more.

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