noun, plural to·ma·toes.
- any of several plants belonging to the genus Lycopersicon, of the nightshade family, native to Mexico and Central and South America, especially the widely cultivated species L. lycopersicum, bearing a mildly acid, pulpy, usually red fruit eaten raw or cooked as a vegetable.
- the fruit itself.
- Older Slang: Sometimes Offensive. a girl or woman.
noun plural -toes
- a solanaceous plant, Lycopersicon (or Lycopersicum) esculentum, of South America, widely cultivated for its red fleshy many-seeded edible fruits
- the fruit of this plant, which has slightly acid-tasting flesh and is eaten in salads, as a vegetable, etc
- US and Canadian slang a girl or woman
1753, earlier tomate (c.1600), from Spanish tomate (mid-16c.) from Nahuatl tomatl “a tomato,” literally “the swelling fruit,” from tomana “to swell.” Spelling probably influenced by potato (1565).
A member of the nightshade family, all of which contain poisonous alkaloids. Introduced in Europe from the New World, by 1550 they regularly were consumed in Italy but grown only as ornamental plants in England and not eaten there or in the U.S. at first. An encyclopedia of 1753 describes it as “a fruit eaten either stewed or raw by the Spaniards and Italians and by the Jew families of England.” Introduced in U.S. as part of a program by Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson (1789), but not commonly eaten until after c.1830.
Alternative name love apple and alleged aphrodisiac qualities have not been satisfactorily explained; perhaps from Italian name pomodoro, taken as from adorare “to adore,” but probably actually from d’or “of gold” (in reference to color) or de Moro “of the Moors.” Slang meaning “an attractive girl” is recorded from 1929, on notion of juicy plumpness.