Why do we say tuna "fish" sandwich?

Why do we say tuna “fish” sandwich? Why not just tuna sandwich? Isn’t it redundant to say both “tuna” and “fish”?

There isn’t a non-fish type tuna, is there? (“Chicken Of The Sea” doesn’t count)

I’ve kinda wondered about that myself. We don’t say “Salmon fish”, or “Trout fish”.
“I’ll have the Halibut fish, please.”

Work like you don’t need the money…
Love like you’ve never been hurt…
Dance like nobody’s watching! …(Paraphrased)

Or if you’re my father-in-law you say “tuna feesh” sandwich.

While it may seem redundant, it is not without precedent; ever heard of catfish? You wouldn’t think of ordering “Southern-fried Cat” instead of catfish (if you answered yes to that question, semantics are not your only problem). And what about swordfish? "I’ll have the the broiled sword, a saber salad, with a side of daggers?

In addition, from my copy of Joy of Cooking, I see food species such as blackfish, bluefish, butterfish, dogfish, monkfish, tilefish and wolf fish.


“Believe those who seek the truth.
Doubt those who find it.” --Andre Gide

So we don’t confuse them with tuna bird or tuna lizard sandwiches.

Well, TT all your fish words without “-fish” mean something else. The only thing I can think of is the confusion with Tuna Piano, but I don’t think that had anything to do with a sandwich.

Don’t forget shellfish and crawfish (who aren’t really fish).

Come to think of it, I don’t recall hearing “tuna fish sandwich” in NY that much… We say “tuna sandwich” meaning “tuna salad sandwich” - no one puts a tuna steak on a sandwich.

I always look in the dictionary first, its so easy, here:

1tu•na "tu-ne\ noun [Sp, fr. Taino] (ca. 1555)
1 : any of various flat-jointed prickly pears (genus Opuntia); esp : one (O. tuna) of tropical America
2 : the edible fruit of a tuna

©1996 Zane Publishing, Inc. and Merriam-Webster, Incorporated. All rights reserved.
So, thus, tuna fish means the fish variety of tuna. See, that wasn’t so hard was it?

I believe Tuna is plural. Isn’t the singular Tunny. BTW I say both Tuna Sandwich and Tuna Fish. So do a lot of other Chicago folk.

Perchance tuna wasn’t always so well known… Probably in the murky marketing history lies the answer ?

WAG: Salmon, anchovies, sprat, herring, cod, all were commercially canned or otherwise preserved for “off-the shelf” sale since the turn of the century, and were recognizable to the primarily European communities in urban America, while poorer country folk would get sacalait, catfish, whatever at the market, fresh. When tuna was first widely distributed, people probably said huh ? and it was “marketed” as tuna [as opposed to some other] fish: accent not on variety of tuna, but on the heretofore little known variety of fish.

O le mea a tamaali’i fa’asala, a o le mea a tufanua fa’alumaina.

Talk about redundancy…At birth and thereafter, the Dr., nurses, relatives and friends say: Mom had a BABY boy or girl; come on now… isnt it pretty obvious that the newborn is a baby?

I’m not a big fan of “tuna fish”, but I do like roast beef cow.

The 1919 OED listed tuna as a California variant on tunny (probably influenced by Mexican Spanish).

In the newer OED, the first reference is to “tuna,” in quotes, describing the fish in an 1881 scientific discussion. The first reference to “tuna fish” occurs in 1919, in a book or magazine article describing low-cost, nutritious meals.

I would guess that Jorge has come pretty close to the explanation.


British cookbooks still refer to “tunny fish.”


I think it was decreed by George Bernard Shaw, who got tired of all the piano tuna jokes.

I used to think that too- until one time my boss asked if I wanted a sandwich from the new deli. Asked for Tuna fish, got a tuna steak on a sub roll with nothing but mayo. It was one of the worst sandwiches I’ve ever had. The “fish” may be redundant but the “salad” is not.

kinda like
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PIN Number- Personal Identification Number Number

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so you found a girl who thinks really deep thoughts. what’s so amazing about really deep thoughts? Tori Amos

The Rio Grande River?

La Brea Tar Pits.

Tuna steak makes a GREAT sandwich. What’s the matter with you people?

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