n. pl. to·ma·toes
1. A widely cultivated South American plant (Lycopersicon
esculentum) having edible, fleshy, usually red fruit.
2. The fruit of this plant.
2. Slang. A woman regarded as attractive.
[Alteration of Spanish tomate, from Nahuatl tomatl.]to·mato·ey (-t-) adj.
Word History: Among the greatest contributions to world civilization made by the early inhabitants of the Americas are plant foods such as the potato and squash. The tomato, whose name comes ultimately from the Nahuatl language spoken by the Aztecs and other groups in Mexico and Central America, was another important contribution. When the Spanish conquered this area, they brought the tomato back to Spain and, borrowing the Nahuatl word tomatl for it, named it tomate, a form shared in French, Portuguese, and early Modern English. Tomate, first recorded in 1604, gave way to tomato, a form created in English either because it was assumed to be Spanish or under the influence of the word potato. As is well known, people at first resisted eating this New World food because its membership in the nightshade family made it seem potentially poisonous, but it is now is an important element of many world cuisines.