The English language actually owes a surprising amount of words to the Aztecs, including coyote, avocado, chili, and chocolate, but today we'll focus on the word tomato. It was first used in 1753, but an alternate form, tomate, was used for more than a century and a half prior to that; it most likely was changed to look more like the word potato. That's taken from Spanish tomate, which is a loanword from the Nahuatl (a language in the Aztec, or Nahuan, family) word tomatl, which still referred to the nutritional vegetable. However, it had a literal meaning of "swelling fruit" (this connotation of juicy, round plumpness later influenced the development of the old-timey slang word for "attractive woman" as well). Eventually, it goes back to Proto-Nahuan, probably to a word along the lines of "to swell".
Adam Aleksic is a 220-month-old, 2800-ounce high school senior with disturbing interests in etymology, vexillology, geography, board games, limericks, and law. Adam will be studying linguistics at Harvard College in the fall.
The Etymology Nerd