to·​ma·​to | \ tə-ˈmā-(ˌ)tō How to pronounce tomato (audio) ; chiefly in Britain, eastern New England, northeastern Virginia, and sometimes elsewhere in cultivated speech -ˈmä- How to pronounce tomato (audio) ; chiefly in Northern US -ˈma- \
plural tomatoes

Definition of tomato

1 : the usually large, rounded, edible, pulpy berry of an herb (genus Solanum) of the nightshade family native to South America that is typically red but may be yellow, orange, green, or purplish in color and is eaten raw or cooked as a vegetable
2 : a plant that produces tomatoes especially : any of various varieties of a tender perennial (Solanum lycopersicum synonym Lycopersicon esculentum) widely cultivated as an annual

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How is tomato pronounced?: Usage Guide

The original pronunciation of this Spanish loanword was with stressed \ä\, as was also the case for potato. The older \ä\ pronunciation of potato is found in Robert Burns' poem "Holy Willie's Prayer" and persists in some Scottish dialects. Perhaps because potato has been part of English longer than tomato, its pronunciation has been anglicized in most dialects, with the stressed \ä\ vowel becoming \ā\, like the a in Plato (from Greek) and dado (from Italian). The pronunciation of tomato began the same journey of anglicization but was halted halfway between, so that British and some Eastern American dialects have the older \ä\ while the others have the newer \ā\. Tomato, being the name of a New World plant, might have entered the English language first in the Americas, where it would have had more time to undergo anglicization in American mouths. The various pronunciations of tomato are all acceptable in standard English.

Examples of tomato in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web To the saucepan, add tomato paste, apple juice, brown sugar, bourbon, Worcestershire sauce and dry mustard; stir to combine. Darlene Zimmerman, Detroit Free Press, 29 May 2021 My tomato plants’ blooms are all falling off without setting fruit. Neil Sperry, San Antonio Express-News, 28 May 2021 Fruit worms and other caterpillars, which are the larva stages or moths, attach tomato plants but are often a greenish color and hard to see. Tom Maccubbin,, 22 May 2021 Prices range from $2 (for individual pepper or tomato plants) to $28 for 14-inch patio pots. Carol Kovach, cleveland, 5 Apr. 2021 Last year all 14 of my tomato plants and my squash plants got a form of powdery mildew on them that stunted the plants growth and drastically reduced the crop. oregonlive, 3 Apr. 2021 Best-sellers include tomato plants and jalapeno pepper plants, magnolia trees, succulents, and ferns. Amanda Richards, Better Homes & Gardens, 25 Mar. 2021 The way the sun shines through the tomato plants in the garden with Samin Nosrat. Washington Post, 23 Mar. 2021 Easily remedied — and there was the outdoor space, which now contains a trellis, a Japanese maple and several heavily laden tomato plants. Joanne Kaufman, New York Times, 29 Sep. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'tomato.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of tomato

1604, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for tomato

alteration of earlier tomate, from Spanish, from Nahuatl tomatl

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Last Updated

13 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Tomato.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Jun. 2021.

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More Definitions for tomato


to·​ma·​to | \ tə-ˈmā-tō How to pronounce tomato (audio) , -ˈmä- \
plural tomatoes

Kids Definition of tomato

: the usually red juicy fruit of a plant related to the potato that is eaten raw or cooked as a vegetable

More from Merriam-Webster on tomato

Nglish: Translation of tomato for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of tomato for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about tomato


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