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
: 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
: a plant that produces tomatoes
especially : any of various varieties of a tender perennial (Solanum lycopersicum synonym Lycopersicon esculentum) widely cultivated as an annual
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 In addition to veggies like sweet peppers and tomatoes, this dish also has red kidney beans to give it some protein. Andrea Beck, Better Homes & Gardens, 4 Apr. 2024 There’s plenty of room to entertain and/or plant an urban garden with homegrown tomatoes and herbs. Abby Montanez, Robb Report, 2 Apr. 2024 Next, layer the middle section with tomatoes and bacon. Michelle Gross, Southern Living, 1 Apr. 2024 Redolent of garlic and rosemary, brothy, flecked with tomatoes and a few tiny pasta pieces, the soup perked us up. Michelle Huneven, Los Angeles Times, 27 Mar. 2024 Portillo’s all-beef Chicago hot dog is a 60-year legacy, topped with tomatoes, onions, sport peppers, pickle, mustard and relish. Bud Kennedy, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 27 Mar. 2024 Winfrey named Flamingo Estate candles, which smell like tomatoes and rosemary, among her favorite things, the New York Times reported. Martha Ross, The Mercury News, 27 Mar. 2024 The surgeon, who has been living in the hospital without family contact since the beginning of October, proceeded to cut up cucumbers and tomatoes, and bring them a plate of labneh. Detroit Free Press, 23 Mar. 2024 Thompson begins by slackening onions in a pan, followed by garlic and yellow yam, tomatoes and red bell pepper, contrasts of yield and crunch. Ligaya Mishan, New York Times, 27 Mar. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'tomato.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


alteration of earlier tomate, from Spanish, from Nahuatl tomatl

First Known Use

1604, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of tomato was in 1604

Dictionary Entries Near tomato

Cite this Entry

“Tomato.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


to·​ma·​to tə-ˈmāt-ō How to pronounce tomato (audio)
-ˈmät- How to pronounce tomato (audio)
plural tomatoes
: a usually large rounded red or sometimes yellow pulpy berry that is eaten as a vegetable
: a widely grown South American plant of the nightshade family that produces tomatoes

derived from Spanish tomate "tomato," from the name for this plant in the ancient language of the Aztecs

More from Merriam-Webster on tomato

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