Etymology of Tomato


During the Spanish colonization at the end of the 15th century, this iconic fruit was discovered to became an essential ingredient of modern cuisine. The tomato is identified in the Nahuatl language as tomatl, documented in 1532 by the Spanish theologian Bernardo de Sahagun (1499-1590), originally in reference to the yellow tomato, acting as a reference for the fruit that is born from the solanum lycopersicum (or simply tomato plant) plant, allowing to associate the component tom-, for tomohuac, meaning fat, and atl, referring to water, in the same way that it is observed in avocado, determined in the Nahuatl ahuacatl or berenjela as seen in the Nahuatl camohtomatl. Nontheless, it constitutes the basis of the variants of the fruit and the respective species of the vegetable kingdom that make its growth possible.

Hence, jitomate is a word typical of Mexico and extended to certain Hispanic regions, coming from the Nahuatl language as xictli-tomatl, highlighting xictli, interpreted as center or navel. Included in the RAE (Royal Spanish Academy), the word jitomate is used today to distinguish the red from the yellow and green, the latter was originally known as tomatlan. However, in most countries “tomato” is the chosen word for all variants of the fruit.

On the other hand, there is the peculiar black tomato, referred to as jaltomate, from the Nahuatl xaltomatl, where the prefix xal- is associated with xallo, for sandy, indicating the soil where it is planted. The miltomate can also be noted, which is seen in Nahuatl as milli-tomatl, made up of the word milli, referring to sowing or cultivation, and tomatl, for tomato, having a much smaller cultural reach only in countries like Honduras, Guatemala, Salvador and, of course, Mexico. This one is a fruit characterized by its green shade and small size, originating from the physalis philadelphica.

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