Word origins of vegetables occasionally have intriguing stories associated with them. It is interesting to see how most of these vegetable names refer to shape, colour, and taste. Some such references are obvious as in the case of drumstick. Others have their origins in languages like Latin, Spanish, and French. As a result, the original meanings lie hidden in their names.

The following is a list of vegetables with interesting stories behind their names.

  • Cabbage: The name ‘cabbage’ comes from Middle French caboche which means ‘head’. It was derived as a diminutive from Latin ‘caput’ which means head (as we can see in words like cap, capital, etc.). The comparison is between the head of a cabbage to the head of a person.
  • Tomato: Tomato got its name from sixteenth century Spanish ‘tomate’, which literally meant ‘the swelling fruit’. It was derived from ‘tomana’ (to swell).
  • Amaranth: The name of amaranth originated from French amarante, from Latin amarantus, from Greek amarantos, which all literally meant ‘everlasting.’ It got its name because of the unfading flower. It is actually a combination of ‘a’ (not) and ‘marainein’ (to die) The ending was influenced by plant names with Greek ‘anthos’ (flower).
  • Pumpkin: Pumpkin has its origins in Greek ‘pepon’ which meant ‘cooked by the sun’ hence ‘ripe’. It originated from ‘peptein’ which meant ‘to cook’.
  • Lettuce: This vegetable probably got its name from Old French ‘laitues’ which is the plural of ‘laitue,’ French name for lettuce. Actually it came from Latin ‘lactuca’ which had its origin in lac (genitive lactis) ‘milk’ (as we see in ‘lactation’). The vegetable is so called for its milky juice.

Vegetable Names in English and Indian Languages

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