Sliders are one of the hallmarks of American cuisine. You probably just think of them as miniature hamburgers (or buffalo chicken sandwiches, or whatever other little thing restaurants these days put onto a small bun and call a slider), but in reality they’re a unique food product that deserves recognition on their own.
In order to understand why sliders are called sliders, you first need to know how real sliders are made at legendary slider spots like White Manna in New Jersey. As opposed to hamburgers, which are made by cooking a burger patty on a griddle or grill then placing it onto a bun, sliders start with a well-oiled griddle and a ball of meat, which is smashed onto the griddle (usually accompanied by a small handful of onions, which fry into the meat as it cooks). The meat is flipped after it’s been nicely seared, then, while it’s still on the griddle, the toppings, including the top bun, are added and allowed to steam.
One common theory as to why they’re called sliders is the way that they’re slid across the griddle before the toppings are added to make way for new patties. Another theory is the fact that they “slide” down easy as you’re eating a few, and yet another (popularized by White Castle) is that they slide out of their boxes easily.