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Updated: Jul 25, 2023

Bretzels have a special place in my heart. When I was younger, the only times I would get to enjoy them was either whilst I travelled to Switzerland with my parents or a little later on when I would go watch live Hockey games in Montreal. My favorites were the ones we would get in Zurich. Somehow food just tastes better there. Especially the bread. I think it's because of the happy cows and chickens. The brezels in Zurich are either served as a sandwich with various options of delicious deli meats, or plain with a little bit of whipped salted butter. This is my absolute favorite. I have since tried to replicate this amazingness with my homemade Bretzel recipe but came to wonder where and how Bretzels began.

If like me, you're a fan of pretzels, you may have wondered where they get their unique name. The answer lies in the German word "Bretzel" (sometimes spelled "brezel"), which is the origin of the English word "pretzel." In this blog post, we'll explore the fascinating history behind the name Bretzel and how it came to be associated with this delicious baked good.

A brief history

Bretzels, also known as pretzels, are a type of baked pastry that has been enjoyed for centuries. Their unique shape and delicious flavor have made them a popular snack around the world. In this blog post, we'll explore the history of bretzels, including their origins and how they've evolved over time.

Origins of Bretzels

The origins of bretzels can be traced back to the early Middle Ages. It's believed that the first pretzels were created by monks in Southern France or Northern Italy in the 6th century. The unique shape of the bretzel is said to represent the arms of a monk in prayer, with the three holes representing the Holy Trinity.

The name "Bretzel" is believed to have originated from the Latin word "bracellus," which means "little arms" or "bracelet." This is likely because the shape of the pretzel resembles a twisted piece of rope, similar to the way bracelets were made in ancient times. The word "pretiola" evolved from "bracellus" over time, "pretiola" means "little rewards" in Latin. The monks would give these small, twisted breads to children who learned their prayers. Eventually becoming "pretzel" in English.

The pretiola was then introduced to Germany in the early 12th century. The pretzel quickly became a popular snack, and it was eventually adopted as a symbol of bakers' guilds in Germany. The bakers would create pretzels in various shapes and sizes to represent different trades and professions.

In the 16th century, bretzels made their way to America, where they became popular in the Pennsylvania Dutch community. The Pennsylvania Dutch adapted the traditional bretzel recipe to include more sugar and spices, resulting in a sweeter and more flavorful version of the snack.

Evolution of Bretzels

Over time, bretzels have evolved into different varieties and shapes. In Germany, bretzels are typically larger and have a thicker dough than their American counterparts. They're often topped with coarse salt or seeds and are commonly served with mustard or cheese dip.

In the United States, bretzels are often smaller and thinner, and they're commonly served as a snack food. They come in a variety of shapes, including sticks, knots, and traditional pretzel shapes. They're often topped with cinnamon sugar or other sweet toppings.

Bretzels are also enjoyed in other parts of the world, including Austria, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic. In these countries, bretzels are often served as a breakfast pastry or as a snack with beer.


Regardless of the true origin of the name, one thing is certain: the Bretzel has a rich history and is a beloved pastry in Germany and beyond. Whether you enjoy it with a cold beer, as a snack on a long train ride, or simply as a treat with your morning coffee, the Bretzel is a true German classic that will never go out of style.

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