It is one of the many types of kebab, a range of meat dishes originating in the Middle East. In English, the word kebab alone often refers to shish kebab, though outside of North America, kebab may also mean doner kebab.
It is traditionally made of lamb but there are also versions with various kinds of meat, poultry, or fish. In Turkey, shish kebab and the vegetables served with it are grilled separately, normally not on the same skewer.
Shish kebab is an English rendering of Turkish: şiş (sword or skewer) and kebap (roasted meat dish), that dates from around the beginning of the 20th century. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, its earliest known publication in English is in the 1914 novel Our Mr. Wrenn by Sinclair Lewis.
The word kebab alone was already present in English by the late 17th century, from the Arabic: كَبَاب (kabāb), partly through Urdu, Persian and Turkish. Etymologist Sevan Nişanyan states that the word has the equivalent meaning of "frying/burning" with "kabābu" in the old Akkadian language, and "kbabā/כבבא" in Aramaic. The oldest known example of şiş, probably originally meaning a pointed stick, comes from the 11th-century Dīwān Lughāt al-Turk, attributed to Mahmud of Kashgar.
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