The Mysterious Symbol: What Is the Icon with Three Lines Called?

The Mysterious Symbol: What Is the Icon with Three Lines Called?

Let’s talk about a symbol that you’ve probably seen many times but may not know the name of. Have you ever noticed a little icon consisting of three horizontal lines stacked on top of each other? It’s a curious symbol that can be found in various places, both online and offline. But what is it called?

Allow me to introduce you to the enigmatic symbol known as the “hamburger menu.” No, it’s not a menu for ordering hamburgers (although that would be tasty!). Instead, it’s a term used in the world of design and technology to describe this particular icon.

The name “hamburger menu” was given to this symbol because of its uncanny resemblance to a sandwich made with a bun and a patty. Just like a hamburger, this menu icon consists of three horizontal lines that serve as the top and bottom bun, while the content or options are represented by the “meat” in-between.

Why use such a peculiar name for this symbol? Well, it all comes down to its functionality. The hamburger menu is commonly used to hide a menu or a navigation panel on a website or app. When you click or tap on it, the menu slides out, revealing the hidden options. This way, the menu remains accessible without taking up valuable screen space until you need it, just like the hidden ingredients of a hamburger!

The hamburger menu gained popularity in the early days of mobile app development, where screen space was limited. It provided a clever solution for including all the necessary options without cluttering the interface. Since then, it has become a widely recognized and used symbol across different platforms and devices.

So, next time you come across that symbol with three lines, you’ll know that it’s called a hamburger menu. Whether you see it on a website, in a mobile app, or anywhere else, you’ll have a bit of insider knowledge about its name and significance. It’s just another example of how symbols and icons play a vital role in the world of design and technology.

Have you ever noticed that icon with three horizontal lines? You’ve probably seen it a million times while surfing the Internet or using a mobile app. But do you know what it’s called? Well, most people are actually in the dark about its name. Let me enlighten you – it’s called the hamburger menu.

Now, don’t be fooled by the name. This hamburger menu has nothing to do with fries and soda. In fact, it’s used to save space. It may seem like a recent invention, but it has actually been around for quite some time. It just wasn’t widely used until the era of smartphones. You see, website and app developers had a bit of a challenge when it came to fitting all the options on the main screen. But then along came this tiny, delicious icon and solved all their problems.

If you’re curious about where this hamburger icon came from, which apps use it, and the controversies surrounding it, then keep reading.

The Origins of the Hamburger Icon

There’s quite a bit of debate about who actually invented the hamburger. Nevertheless, it’s a sandwich with meat between two buns that has been around for over 100 years. The icon with three horizontal lines has a similar appearance, which is why it’s now commonly referred to as the hamburger icon.

I’m here to talk about the creation and popularity of the hamburger icon. Back in 1981, Norm Cox designed it for Xerox Star, marking the first-ever graphical user interface. Its purpose was to make it easy for users to access a range of options.

So why did it only become popular recently? The rise of mobile phones played a big role. At first, smartphone screens were small, so app designers had to find a way to maximize the available space. The hamburger icon was a great choice because it could hide numerous options behind three simple lines.

Why do apps use the hamburger icon?

Some apps and websites can be tricky to navigate, and there’s a good reason for that. With limited space, developers can’t spell out everything. Instead of writing “Menu,” “Preferences,” or “Options,” they decided to use the hamburger icon.

Another reason is that not everyone is a native English speaker, and translating options for small smartphone screens can be challenging. Languages like Dutch or German, known for their long words, make it even more difficult.

The hamburger icon breaks up large blocks of text and helps users focus on the main interface of a site or app. Some people even think of it as a “More” icon rather than an “Options” icon, and that approach has proven successful.

Good examples of hamburger icon use

The hamburger icon gained popularity through major apps like Google, YouTube, and Facebook. However, due to a lack of clarity, Facebook decided to replace the hamburger icon with a tab bar.

YouTube also made this change after noticing a decline in user engagement. Maybe these big players weren’t using the icon effectively, or it simply didn’t fit their platforms. Let’s look at some better examples of hamburger icon use.


Uber did an excellent job with the hamburger icon. Their app focuses entirely on booking rides, so the hamburger icon is for secondary options like payment, trip history, and freebies.

Google Drive

Google takes a similar approach. The main focus of Google Drive is on documents and files, with the hamburger menu providing access to other options like backup, sharing, and settings.

My Fitness Pal

A calorie tracking app naturally includes a hamburger menu. My Fitness Pal placed it at the top left of the screen, away from the calorie counter. Advanced features like diets, progress tracking, and recipes are just a button tap away.

The downsides of the hamburger menu

The three-line hamburger icon has been receiving criticism lately, and it’s easy to see why. One major issue is its lack of transparency. When items are hidden in a hamburger menu, they become less visible and less prominent.

This results in fewer user interactions, meaning fewer clicks on the icon. Some argue that it’s also harder to reach since it’s typically located at the top left or right corners of the screen, and mobile phones are getting bigger every year.

Do you like hamburger icons?

Now it’s time for your thoughts on the matter. Do you find these icons as appealing as the delicious food they were named after? Opinions on the subject are varied, but the inventor believes the hamburger icon is here to stay because of its practicality.

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3 thoughts on “What is the icon with three lines called?”

As a trainer and instructional designer focused on applications and software, I’ve never heard of this silly term, and I have no intention of using it. I’ll stick to calling it a navigation menu button, navigation button, or menu button, but never a ridiculous hamburger button. I’ll leave the silly terms to business analysts and developers.

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