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 Dominican spaghetti is a hearty, lush dish consisting of pasta tangled up with yellow and green peppers, onions, olives, capers, and chunks of meat that gets drowned in a creamy combination of tomato sauce and evaporated milk. Carlos Matias, Bon Appétit, 14 July 2021 Its topping and cheese (usually Wisconsin brick cheese) are applied up to the very edges of the dough perimeter and are layered under the tomato sauce. Joanna O'leary, Chron, 14 July 2021 The pork meatballs are unusually fluffy from a generous heap of ricotta, and Solimano fries and then braises them in tomato sauce for 45 minutes so the flavors meld. Janelle Bitker, San Francisco Chronicle, 13 July 2021 Twenty-two minutes later, lunch was served: A crisp, crackly, bready raft, topped with (a tad too) sweet tomato sauce, (a tad too little) cheese and pinwheels of tiny crisped up pepperoni slices. Washington Post, 6 July 2021 Another is seafood gumbo, which is tomato-based, but not precisely what Mike’s letter was looking for. Amy Drew Thompson,, 22 June 2021 And it's covered in a mild tomato sauce, not too tangy, which is generously spread so the pie never tastes dry, just cheesy and comforting. Andi Berlin, The Arizona Republic, 6 July 2021 In this dish, grilled slices of eggplant and onion are simmered in a quick, golden-hued, paprika-and-turmeric-spiced tomato sauce, then served layered with garlicky yogurt and showered with fresh mint and cilantro. Washington Post, 1 July 2021 The end result is a tangy, umami-rich, spicy tomato sauce that is delicious on just about anything. Bon Appétit, 24 June 2021

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

19 Jul 2021

Cite this Entry

“Tomato.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Jul. 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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