Bill Poser has a Language Log post on the curious fact that the identical (and delicious) roast-meat product is known in the U.S. as gyro(s) and in Canada as doner or donair (from the Turkish döner). It’s not a matter of respective numbers of immigrants nor of who runs most restaurants (Greeks prevailing in both, in both countries); Bill suggests that it’s “an example of a founder effect, that is, that it is essentially an accident, due to the language used by the first people to introduce and popularize the dish…. In the case of Canada, if doner was used first, if Greek restaurants introduced the dish out of awareness of its popularity in other restaurants, where it was called doner, they may have used doner rather than their own name in order to attract customers already familiar with the dish under its Turkish name.” That may well be the case, but an additional fact that Bill tosses in at the end may be important here: “Incidentally, the Greek term is actually derived from the Turkish. The earlier Greek term is reported to be ντονέρ [doner]. Greek γύρος ‘turning’ is a calque of a Turkish original that was first borrowed into Greek, then replaced after independence.” I’d like to know more about the history of this; if it was indeed replaced after independence (i.e., in the early 19th century), then it’s irrelevant here, but if it remained in common use (like many other Turkish-derived terms) until after the Greco-Turkish War of 1919-1922 it’s possible that the early Greek restaurateurs in Canada called the dish ντονέρ [doner] and naturally used the term in their menus. Like Bill, I’d love to hear from anyone who has more information.

Another point is the pronunciation of “gyro(s)” in English; I, like virtually everyone in NYC (including Greek restaurateurs), say [dʒaiɹow] (JYE-roe), but my brother (who’s spent his adult life in Southern California) uses the Grecizing pronunciation [jiɹow] (YEE-roe) and is horrified that I, a linguist and philhellene, use the “bastardized” form—so horrified that on a visit to New York (while I was still living there) he insisted I use the “correct” form when ordering. I obediently asked for two yeeroes; the counterman looked at me, puzzled, then said “Two jyeroes?” My brother gave up in disgust. It’s an interesting regional split (assuming, as I do, that my brother, as he says, reflects universal SoCal usage), and for this too I would welcome further information.

Update (Oct. 2019). Lindsay Nelson has written me to say he has done a thorough investigation into the subject; he’s preparing a book, but in the meantime here’s his History of the Donair from last February — it tells the whole story of Peter Gamoulakos, who took a trip to Greece in 1973, decided to try selling gyros back home in Canada, and with one of his brothers went on to open the first Mr. Doner in Bedford. It’s a fascinating tale, and the photos will make you hungry!


  1. In Britain we say ‘doner’. I hadn’t heard of ‘gyros’ till I went the US (Arizona), where everyone said DJYE-roe, though I suspected it must be something like HEAR-roe (you say YEE-roe, OK).

  2. I thought the Canadian usage was derived from the British term. In Chicago, where the automatic spit on which the meat turns was invented, we say YEE-ro.

  3. I’ve avoided ordering them at times because either way I say it will be wrong. Canada, here I come!
    Also, is there any etymological connexion with the “hero” (submarine, hoagie) sandwich?

  4. I’ve tried using the year-oh pronunciation in Toronto, and generally speaking, they have no idea what I’m saying. Except there are a few people who will sort of mock you if you say jai-roe and pronounce the soft g.
    So I’ve pretty much given up eating them at all.

  5. I didn’t know until reading the LL post that they were the same thing! One factor that may be influencing the SoCal pronunciation is the fast food chain Jack in the Box’s commercials. They came out with gyros maybe 10 or 15 years ago, and their ads made a big point of saying it’s pronounced year-oh.

  6. Shouldn’t that be “Hellenizing” instead of “Grecizing” (sic)?
    I just wanted to add the data point that they are always called donairs in British Columbia as far as I can tell, even though most of the places selling them are Greek.

  7. Meesher: There’s no etymological connection between hero and gyro(s). The hero was so called simply because it’s a sandwich of heroic proportions. (Earliest known cite is from the 1937 Lexicon of Trade Jargon — see Barry Popik’s page for more.) The Hellenized pronunciation of gyro as /jiro/ mentioned by Languagehat has evidently led to folk-etymological speculation that it’s the origin of hero.

  8. Doug Sundseth says

    “Yiros” is normal with the group I eat with in Colorado, but, it must be said, some of them (not “us”, surely) trend a bit pretentious. 😎
    At any rate, I’ve never had confusion from a counter-man when using that pronunciation.

  9. In Rochester, NY, American servers say JYE-roe, Greek proprietors say HEE-roe, customers say both (roughly in correlation with class and education levels) and everyone seems to understand the main thing, which is not to get any of the tzatziki on your shirt.

  10. The JYE/YEE thing has always confused me: I grew up in southern NH and went to college for a while in Western Mass, and in both places, everyone always said JYE-roh. It flustered my college girlfriend, who was from Maryland and said YEE-roh, which usually prompted corrections from the (generally Greek) countermen.
    Then I moved away for thirteen years. Came back to southern NH, ten miles from the house I grew up in. A lot’s changed on the food front — there’s sushi and espresso now, you can buy ostrich and tamarind at the same grocery store where I used to search high and low for a bottle of Tabasco sauce — and everyone says YEE-roh!

  11. In Montreal, we say “Ye-roe” or “Jye-roe”. I’d never heard of a donair until I moved out to Calgary.
    The rumour around here is that donair originated out of Nova Scotia…

  12. In the Netherlands we call the Greek thing Gyros ( pronounced geeros with a Dutch, throat-searing g) and the Turkish stuff Döner. They differ slightly from each other, Gyros tends to be more refined while Döner is sometimes spiced in a very industrial-tasting way, but the main difference is that Gyros comes with tzatziki and Döner usually doesn’t. I think the geeros pronounciation is more or less correct since a restaurant I walk by every day is called Gyros van Spiros (and Spiros is Speeros, of course), and the owner is an honest-to-god native contemporary Greek; but then, he may have called it like that for the rhyme.
    I never eat the stuff.

  13. Funny, I’d never thought of them as the same either. Maybe because there is a vast difference in quality between the excellent doners I’ve had in Turkey and Germany, and the pretty mediocre product slathered in bland yogurt sauce, accompanied by tasteless tomatoes and served on flaccid pita bread that one generally finds in New England.
    What about Shwarma?

  14. I’m from Houston and currently live in Colorado and have been taught to say “yee-ro” for this dish. But this comes up infrequently so I’m not sure what the local custom is.

  15. I’m from So Cal too, and I’ve only ever heard JYE-ro.

  16. I’m in Southern California, and I think most of us say YEE-roe. But I’ve heard plenty of people in the area who say JYE-roe too.

  17. Sh(a)warma is basically the same thing, but as I recall tends to be spiced differently. It’s been a while, so I may be wrong.
    Shouldn’t that be “Hellenizing” instead of “Grecizing” (sic)?
    Maybe, but at the time of writing “Hellenizing” sounded like a pretentious way to refer to something involving 20th-century Greeks. At any rate, your (sic) is unnecessary—Gr(a)ecize is a perfectly good word with a long history. OED:
    Græcize, Grecize, v.
    1. trans. To assimilate to what is Greek; to give a Greek cast, character, or form to.
    1692 R. L’ESTRANGE Josephus, Antiq. i. 3 Josephus endeavours to Grecize, and shape the history of the Jews as like as he could to those of the Greeks and Romans. 1827 G. HIGGINS Celtic Druids 200 note, This word, as usual, they Græcised. 1853 RUSKIN Stones Ven. III. iv. §35. 194 Whatever is.. in any way Grecized or Romanized. […] 1880 T. HODGKIN Italy & Inv. II. ii. II. 81 note, His habit of Grecising the names of undoubted Huns.
    2. intr. a. To favour the cause of the Greeks. rare–1. b. To become Greek-like; to adopt Greek expressions, idioms, modes of life, etc.
    1840 Blackw. Mag. XLVII. 646 To Graecize or not to Graecize had become a test of patriotic feeling. 1879 FARRAR St. Paul I. 126 One who ‘Græcises’ in language or mode of life. 1892 Guardian 18 May 743/3 The MS. quite certainly does not Latinise but Graecises. […]

  18. In the Midwest (Southwest Michigan and Northeast Ohio), I’ve heard /ʹgi: ɹoʷ/ (ghee-row), /ʹji: ɹoʷ/ (yee-row), and /ʹʤaɪ: ɹoʷ/ (jye-row). I don’t think I’ve heard a blended /ʹʤi: ɹoʷ/ (jee-row) or a Spanish-style /ʹhi: ɹoʷ/ (hee-row), but neither would really shock me.
    As for the “-s,” in my experience people here treat it as a plural suffix, dropping it in attributive or singular use and pronouncing it /z/ in plural use.

  19. In Washington, I often hear the ‘yee-row’ pronunciation, but the ‘jye-roe’ version isn’t uncommon. I don’t remember how it was done in Nebraska (I never ate them there) but I think it might have been ‘jye-roe’ there, too.

  20. Basso Profundo says

    The first time I ever ordered a Jye-roe, at the State Fair in Alaska, the counterman told me to pronounce it “Yee-roh”. Since then I have never heard a single person say “Yee-roh”, and I have had countermen give confused looks when I used it. Jye-roe seems to be universal in the Seattle area.

  21. I’m from Texas, but my family is originally from Chicago. We’ve always pronounced ‘gyro’ like ‘gear-o’.

  22. In London, Ontario, where I grew up, they were called “gyros”, and the menus at Mr. Souvlaki (a food-stand of such eminence that for a time someone at a downtown office kept a Web camera pointed at it) took pains to give phonetic pronunciation. So there’s founder effect again on a more local scale.
    I’ve never actually heard anyone say “jye-roe”, and the term doner/donair didn’t reach my ear until a visit to Berlin, with its considerable Turkish immigrant population, in 1990. In Britain I found “doner” to the most common term, though this was largely in Kent, and London probably is completely different.
    (The previous sentence reminds me of another piece of idiolect/dialect I’ve been curious about: people saying “the UK” for what I grew up calling “Britain”. Somehow I just can’t bring myself to say “the UK” — even though I do realize that the two terms have slightly different connotations, both geographically and politically.)

  23. Shouldn’t the sticklers for authenticity be worrying about the question of singular versus plural as well as the pronunciation of the first syllable? Why aren’t they saying “YEE-rohss”, with “YEE-ree” (spelled “gyroi”) for the plural?

  24. I’ve only heard [jiɹos] (with the [s] optional) here in Southern California.
    I would guess it is *all* the immigrants to Canada that have had an effect on the usage there, not just the Turks vs. Greeks. The non-Turks who already used “döner” helped propagate it to a wider group than those who non-Turks who used “gyros” did.

  25. (Which Poser already essentially said.)

  26. mollymooly says

    In Ireland, doner kebabs were introduced in the 1980s by Abrakebabra, a chain started by an Irishman who’d seen them in London. The word “gyros” is unknown, except presumably in the few Greek restaurants (I’ve never been). “Doner kebab” is usually abbreviated to “kebab” except when ordering, just as you’d say “I had a hamburger” rather than “I had a quarter-pounder with cheese”. “Doner” is pronounced like “donor” and I’ve seen it written thus in at least one establishment (I didn’t sample its wares). A kebab is, according to the stereotype of unimaginative stand-up comedians ripping off Billy Connolly c.1980, the greasy food of choice when staggering home from the pub, and something you’d never touch when sober. This stereotype is becoming less true. There are now a few authentically Turkish kebab shops.

  27. In Toronto they’re usually called gyros: I’ve never seen one called a doner.

  28. I always thought that gyros was pronounced with a voiced velar fricative [ɣ], seeing how modern Greek has phonetic spelling and, presumably, the odd English spelling is a direct transcription from ‘ɣ’ to ‘g.’

  29. seeing how modern Greek has phonetic spelling
    Not sure what you mean by that; I’d say it’s one of the worse spelling systems around, having been created for a completely different phonetic system. At any rate, the letter gamma is pronounced as a voiced velar fricative before back vowels, but as y before front ones.

  30. Probably because of the same confusion with hero sandwiches noted above–and as a result of some actual people of Greek descent here pronouncing the “g” as something between a y, an h, and the ch in loch (which is almost the correct Modern Greek pronunciation of gamma, but not quite) –I’ve actually heard people in upper Michigan use a pronunciation that more or less sounds exactly like “hero.” The h is a little rougher, but not by very much.

  31. Probably because of the same confusion with hero sandwiches noted above–and as a result of some actual people of Greek descent here pronouncing the “g” as something between a y, an h, and the ch in loch (which is almost the correct Modern Greek pronunciation of gamma, but not quite) –I’ve actually heard people in upper Michigan use a pronunciation that more or less sounds exactly like “hero.” The h is a little rougher, but not by very much.

  32. I have always believed the original term “hero” did derive from the Greek “gyro.” Moreover, the doner kebab which I regularly had and loved in Germany (and occasionally in Japan) were also spiced and presented differently than the gyros (which I only had in the U.S.

  33. LH, this is what you get for mentioning food.

  34. marie-lucie says

    I live in Halifax, where the donair (pronounced dow-nair) is very popular and made in a variety of places. You can see the picture of King of Donairs (located in downtown Halifax) on the website mentioned by Bill Poser. The original inventor was the proprietor of Velos Pizza, in Bedford, formerly a separate town but now incorporated into Halifax. KOD “merged’ with Velos Pizza ( I am not sure through what commercial operation) and this merger is what justifies its claim to having been the first donair maker in the area.
    The Halifax donair differs from the doner or gyros described above in that it includes a thick white sauce apparently based on condensed milk, instead of tzatziki. According to what I have read, the creator of this sauce thought that the local taste required something sweet in order to better enjoy the then exotic meat and pita. Apparently he was right.
    I should say that the Atlantic area of Canada has a fair number of Greek and Lebanese immigrants, some dating back a few generations, while the Turkish population is very small and recent.

  35. In Montreal, we say “Ye-roe” or “Jye-roe”. I’d never heard of a donair until I moved out to Calgary.
    The rumour around here is that donair originated out of Nova Scotia…

    As far as I know, they were always called gyros in just about every part of Canada except where I’m from: Nova Scotia, where we call them donairs.
    It makes sense the name donair would pop up in Calgary though. A lot of Cape Bretoners (and, I’m sure, people from other parts of Nova Scotia) live in Calgary these days.

  36. I’ve lived most of my life in and around Melbourne, Australia. (I take this opportunity to point out to my American friends that Melbourne has a schwa second syllable, as has Brisbane, and that the consonant in Aussie is voiced.) Melbourne is said to be the third largest Greek-speaking city in the world, after Athens and Thessaloniki (see this Wikipedia article). We also have a very large population of Turkish origin (along with Vietnamese, Italian, former-Yugoslavian, etc.). Most Melburnians revel in this diversity, whose benefits include culinary cosmopolitanism.
    As far as I know, we nearly always respect the /ö/ in döner, and most of us would hear a change to anything like /o/ as a blunder. I have not heard people referring to γύρος lately, but I think I have never heard anything other than /yiro/ for it. Perhaps I don’t get out enough.

  37. I too grew up in Chicago, home to a whole lot of Greeks, and yee-roe is the only pronunciation used. The only time I ever heard jye-roe was if someone was joking or didn’t know any better. I live in Boston, where the pronunciation is the same.
    My wife and I honeymooned in Nova Scotia which was where we discovered the doner, but we did find is two subtle distinctions. North of the border the doner used a much sweeter sauce, compared to the gyro’s brighter cucumber sauce. Also, the gyro always seemed to contain a lot more garlic.

  38. It’s also worth noting that while us Americans call the meat-on-a-stick ka-BOB, I take it that most non-American english speakers prefer something more along the lines of ka-BAB. Hence the Abra-Kebabra in Ireland noted above, which sounds rather strange said in our accent!

  39. Here in Moscow we didn’t have any of the above (doner, gyros or shwarma) until roughly fifteen years ago. The stuff got very popular during the nineties, when it was sold very widely all across the country, mostly by Azeris. It is seen by most as a cheaper and riskier sort of fast food, and the foodstands get attacked regularly by authorities on sanitation grounds, which is probably why there are not as many of them now, at least in Moscow.
    The stuff differs from the Greek and Turkish versions mostly by the use of Caucasian lavash bread rather than pita, and different sauces (sometimes mayo, yuck!) The quality varies very widely, of course.
    Most interestingly, while it is called шаурма (sha-oor-MUH) in Moscow, in Saint-Petersburg they call it шаверма (sha-VER-muh). It has become one of these language differences (along with кура, поребрик and парадное) which moskvichi and pitertsy use to tease each other.

  40. The word döner comes from the Turkish verb “to revolve, turn” – hence the Greek version known as a “Gyro.” I used to think – and my Greek friends in school also thought – that it was the Greek pronounciation for “hero” sandwich. In fact, the Turkish root of döner` “turning” is the source for the word for convert “dönmeh” by which the Jewish followers of the False Messiah Sabetai Zvi are known.
    But As for kebabs: in the late 19th century a kebab chef in Bursa named Mehmet Işkender developed a new kebab grilling technique by standing a charcoal grill on it’s side, and suspending slices of meat vertically on a skewer. Thus, the döner was born. Nowadays “Işkender kebap” tends to refer to döner meat sliced thick and served on a pide bread covered in a tomato and yoghurt sauce. Döner are the same meat served in bread without the tomato sauce.

  41. mollymooly says

    I take it that most non-American english speakers prefer something more along the lines of ka-BAB.
    This is part of a more general American tendency to use the PALM vowel rather than the TRAP vowel for A in foreign words. cf Wikipedia list: annato, Bangladesh, Caracas, chianti, Galapagos, Gdansk, grappa, gulag, Hanoi, Jan (male name, e.g. Jan Palach), Kant, kebab, Las (placenames, e.g. Las Vegas), mishmash, Mombasa, Natasha, Nissan, Pablo, pasta, Picasso, ralentando, San (names outside USA; e.g. San Juan), Slovak, Sri Lanka, Vivaldi, wigwam, Yasser. My impression is that this makes the word sound more exotic. I guess whether this is more accurate depends on the source language. Pronouncing “Las Vegas” like “Los Vegas” seems unfortunate.

  42. I guess whether this is more accurate depends on the source language.
    Well, yeah, but since it’s more accurate in every instance you mention except for Yasser, I would stress the nativizing of the non-US “trap vowel” rather than the alleged exoticizing of the US version. If you’re reproducing the borrowed word more accurately, how can that be called exotic?
    Pronouncing “Las Vegas” like “Los Vegas” seems unfortunate.
    I guess it would be if anybody did it, but as far as I’m aware nobody does. Americans pronounce the a in Las pretty much the way Spanish speakers do. Do Brits really say “Lass”? How about the second word: is it VEE-guhs? VEE-gass? I’m having a hard time getting used to the idea of kebab with -BABB, and now I’m confronted with a whole series of nativized pronunciations I’d never suspected!

  43. As for Las Vegas, I’ve heard many Australians pronounce it as if it were Los Vegas. I always supposed this was because they thought the Americans were saying that, with their short “o” which is quite different from our short “o”, and similar to our “ah”.
    I conjecture that this similarity of American “a” as in “las” and “o” as in “los” has something to do with many Americans’ pronunciation of such words as Kosovo, which we hear as “KOH-soh-voh”, cosmos which we hear as “KAHZ-mohs”, and Spanish “adiós”, which we hear as “ah-di-OHS”. How do we typically say these? “KO-so-voh” (where “oh” is just like the American pronunciation “oh”, and “o” is a normal short British “o”), “KOZ-mos”, and “ah-DI-os” (yes, we probably get the stress wrong). (Please excuse intuitive renderings of sounds.) How else to account for the American distinction among these various “o”-sounds, if not to avoid the hearer mistaking “o” for “a”? (But then, how to account for our own “oh” at the end of “Kosovo” and the like?)
    Döner kebab? Turner kebab!

  44. In Britain I found “doner” to the most common term, though this was largely in Kent, and London probably is completely different.
    Nope – as a couple of other people have said, it’s doner all round the UK and Ireland. I don’t think most people would have a clue what you were talking about if you said “gyro” (however you pronounced it).
    Of course, the full, correct name for them is “can I get a doner mate yeah with extra chillies and shitloads of chilli sauce yeah that’s it just pour it all on yeah nice one cheers”. There is no finer food when you’re having difficulty focusing and standing up.

  45. mollymooly says

    If you’re reproducing the borrowed word more accurately, how can that be called exotic?
    Impressionistically as opposed to etymologically, exoticized and non-nativized both fall under “exotic”, while native and non-exoticized both fall under “native”. The PALM vowel is much rarer than the TRAP vowel in core vocabulary, excluding BATH and pre-//R// words.
    Pronouncing “Las Vegas” like “Los Vegas” seems unfortunate.
    To add to what Noetica said: My impression is that in AmE, “Las (Vegas)” has the PALM vowel, while “Los (Angeles)” has the CAUGHT vowel; in BrE, “Las (Vegas)” has the TRAP vowel, while “Los (Angeles)” has the LOT vowel. And LOT=PALM with the father-bother merger. Rest assured, “Vegas” is VAY-guss.
    More generally, since there are different numbers and realisations of the low vowels in BrE and AmE, it’s understandable that the nearest-approximating native phoneme to an exotic phoneme may differ.
    Some additional ill-informed speculation: in BrE, the COT vowel require an O spelling, while the PALM, THOUGHT and GOAT vowels require long vowels, so the TRAP vowel is the choice for short A (kebAb) and the COT vowel for short O (kOsovo).

  46. mollymooly says

    correction: nativized and non-exoticized both fall under “native”

  47. I consulted two Southern California locals, and both assured me it was “YEE-roe.”
    I, having grown up in New Jersey, had never even been aware of that pronunciation before this post.

  48. In central Texas, I always heard it as “yeero.”
    In central New York, I almost always hear “jyro,” from restaurateurs as well as patrons. It sounds rather provincial to me.

  49. michael farris says

    I first came across gyros when I moved to a new city to attend the university there. They had just been introduced and a half dozen places were advertising them.
    Since I was also beginning Modern Greek I ended up opting for YEE-roh although most people said JIE-roh (I don’t think I’ve ever heard JEE-roh though it would seem to be a possibility).
    After a few months (I have no idea how) YEE-roh seemed to became the more common pronunciation. Some years later, the pronunciation became SHWAR-ma.
    In Poland, they would be called kebab (some places add döner at the beginning but ignore the umlaut in pronouncing it) and are usually served in a kind of flat roll that doesn’t seem to be used for anything else. “In the early 90’s an ‘authentic’ kebap place that advertised (paraphrasing) “Authentic Berlin-style Kebab!
    In Wrocław, they use a slightly different kind of roll and call it a knysza(!)

  50. The point of the “authentic Berlin-style kebab” is that supposedly the “modern”, internationally popular form of döner kebab (with salad and sauce in a pita) was invented by Turkish immigrants in Berlin in the 1970s and spread from there. I’m not sure of the facts; Wikipedia claims this is the truth, but then it’s Wikipedia. At the very least, though, it’s a common idea in Germany if nowhere else, so even if it’s wrong it’s not unlikely that the proprietor of the place you mentioned picked it up there.
    Not being a native (or frequent) speaker of English and having spent my entire life on another continent, I can’t really comment much on the original topic. If I did somehow find myself ordering a gyros (despite being a vegetarian) in Anglophone lands, I’d probably end up attempting to use the Greek-ish pronunciation (accent aside), although I might also cause serious confusion by flubbing into my German habits and more or less saying [“gy:Ros] or [“gy:R\os].

  51. Dauthendey says

    In Mexico, they are called “tacos arabes,” introduced, apparently, by Arab immigrants to Puebla, where they are very common (it can be now considered a typical food of Puebla). It’s pork on a vertical rotisserie, seasoned similar to the way gyros are in the US, served in pita bread, and accompanied by a dark, spicy sauce. The same meat in a corn tortilla is called “orientales.”
    “Tacos al pastor,” which seem to also have descended from the Arabic vertical rotisserie, are always served in corn tortillas and they are not seasoned in any way to make them taste Arabic. I’m guessing younger people especially imagine them to be totally Mexican.

  52. Question: How did Elvis pronounce it in “Viva Las Vegas!”?

  53. David Marjanović says

    Gyros? Bah. Döner macht schöner.
    (OK, that’s not quite how I’d pronounce it, but I’ve never eaten any…)

    “Doner” is pronounced like “donor” and I’ve seen it written thus

    Vowel harmony strikes back! Like how the Mongolian place name Üüden sayr suddenly becomes Udan-Sayr in Russian. 🙂

    There are now a few authentically Turkish kebab shops.

    That would be kebap then. :-]
    I had no idea of the Caucasian word, and only a few years ago I saw a US shop sign on TV that said “ARAB KABAB”.

  54. How did Elvis pronounce it in “Viva Las Vegas!”?
    Maybe [lɔs ‘vɛɪgəs]?

  55. mollymooly says

    But did Elvis eat gyros or döner? My guess is lots of both.

  56. I’m from California. I grew up in the north, went to school in the south. I say “Yee-ros”, as do most of the people I know. I do know some people who say “Jai-roz” or “Jee-roz” and they tend to be ostracized.

  57. From my experience Donair and Gyro are separate things entirely. I encoutered Gyros during my vacation to New York last year. I find that they are nothing like the Donair we see in Atlantic Canada. When I asked for a Gyro in New York I recieved something like a Greek Souvlaki, where as here in Atlantic Canada, a Donair is made with a spiced meat and a different sauce: Donair Sauce. Although, I have been told that donair sauce is something quite unique to our area.
    Perhaps the confusion on my part is due to a vendor giving me the wrong food in New York, but I am sure I asked for a Gyro and recieved a Pita, with chicken, lettuce, onion, tomato, and tetziki sauce.

  58. Yeah, that’s what a gyro is like in New York. What’s donair sauce like?

  59. frumpiefox says

    In central Wisconsin (long known as a bastion of culture 🙂 ) it’s “ghee-ro” if you’re more of a local yokel, or “yee-ro” if more pretentious.
    But it sounds like what you get in NY is neither! A chicken gyro? Here it’s spiced mutton (sometimes mutton/beef combo), with yogurt/cucumber sauce, and loads of tomatoes and onions (sometimes with red peppers.)

  60. David Marjanović says

    But it sounds like what you get in NY is neither! A chicken gyro?

    I thought döner kebap always contains chicken, as opposed to şişkebap (spelling?), which contains mutton?
    <duck and cover>

  61. I just came across this old post but I have something to contribute, as I have been doing lots of research on the donair/gyro in Canada. In Canada gyros, doners and donairs are different things. The gyro is predominant in Ontario, where it was popularized in Greek neighbourhoods (coinciding with the rise of the gyro in the mid-west USA). The donair was invented in Halifax in 1973 and is a derivative of the gyro. However, you may be interested to hear that the name “donair” came about as more of an accident than a deliberate naming based on ethnicity or the market. Peter Gamoulakos, of Halifax, was inspired by the gyros he ate on his trips back home to Greece and wanted to introduce them at his pizza shop in Halifax. They didn’t take – so he changed the recipe to the sweet sauce and spicy beef that is now an iconic Halifax food. The rotisserie machine he got from Greece had the word “doner” on it, and so he named the food “donair” with a perceived French inflection. The donair spread to Alberta with Maritime workers migrating for work, so that is why the spelling “donair” is prevalent in Alberta, and to some extent BC. The only time I’ve seen the word “doner” was in Montreal and Toronto, where they have more of a Turkish population.

    I still haven’t been able to figure out when the Greeks started saying “gyro” rather than “doner” because I’ve heard everything from independence to “it was coined in NYC”. If you have accumulated any more info about this over the years I would love to get in contact with you. If so, please e-mail me! Cheers!

  62. Thanks for a very informative comment — this is why I’m so glad my spam filter allows me to keep posts open indefinitely! I wonder if Nick Nicholas would be able to help with the “gyro” question?

  63. Fascinating. Hope people are still interested in the debate.
    If we say jee-row or yee-row, don’t we have to switch to jee-row-scope? I ask this to reveal that for too many years to count, we’ve pronounced gyro-scope as jeye-row-scope. The gyroscope and the gyro (food) both refer to something turning (part of the instrument rotates, and the bread around the contents of the gyro is rolled), we should all relax and say jeye-row in both cases.

  64. If we say jee-row or yee-row, don’t we have to switch to jee-row-scope?

    No, they’re completely different words with nothing in common but a bit of etymology.

  65. David Eddyshaw says

    My impression is that the UK only has /dəʊnə/ kebabs; I first encountered “gyro” in Greece and assumed, rightly or wrongly, that like “Greek coffee” and loukoumi (as seen on signs in English) it was part of the modern Greek denial that the last half-millennium (or last two millennia, come to that) ever really happened. Apart from Byron.

  66. David Marjanović says

    Also “Serbian coffee”, LOL.

  67. See the Update above for the full story of Canadian doner.

  68. Canada says Donair? Uhh.. hardly. Montreal Lebanese restaurants call it a shawarma and if it’s a Greek restaurant they’ll call it a Gyro. Some people pronounce the g, others pronounce it like “yee”ro. I have NEVER heard of the word Donair in Montreal, in French or in English.

  69. Well, apparently the donair is more of a Halifax thing. But I’ve never been there, so I have no firsthand knowledge. Thanks for reviving this thread!

  70. People in Toronto and Vancouver certainly say donair. Montréal is in Québec, not Canada. Maybe it’s that whole deux solitudes thing. Seems a bit much to generalize about Canada based on what people in Montreal say. Almost as outlandish as when Ontarians go around claiming that poutine is “Canadian”, when it is purely Quebecois.

  71. That said, a quick google search turns up dozens of donair shops in Montreal as well, including articles about the Halifax invasion,

    So not clear what Alex is objecting to.

  72. I’m afraid it’s a common human failing to assume that what one has not personally encountered/noticed does not exist.

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