The word "tomato" comes from the Spanish tomate, which in turn comes from the Nahuatl word tomatl [ˈtomat͡ɬ], meaning "the swelling fruit". The native Mexican tomatillo is tomate (in Nahuatl: tomātl pronunciation (help·info), meaning "fat water" or "fat thing"). When Aztecs started to cultivate the Andean fruit to be larger, sweeter, and red, they called the new species xitomatl (or jitomates) (pronounced [ʃiːˈtomatɬ]), ("plump with navel" or "fat water with navel"). The scientific species epithet lycopersicum is interpreted literally from Latin in the 1753 book, Species Plantarum, as "wolfpeach", where wolf is from lyco and peach is from persicum.
The usual pronunciations of "tomato" are / (usual in American English) and / (usual in British English). The word's dual pronunciations were immortalized in Ira and George Gershwin's 1937 song "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off" ("You like / and I like / / You like / and I like /") and have become a symbol for nitpicking pronunciation disputes. In this capacity, it has even become an American and British slang term: saying "/" when presented with two choices can mean "What's the difference?" or "It's all the same to me".
Fruit versus vegetable
Tomatoes are considered a fruit or vegetable depending on context. According to Encyclopedia Britannica
, tomatoes are a fruit labeled in grocery stores as a vegetable due to (the taste) and nutritional purposes.
Tomatoes plain and sliced
Botanically, a tomato is a fruit—a berry, consisting of the ovary, together with its seeds, of a flowering plant. However, the tomato is considered a "culinary vegetable" because it has a much lower sugar content than culinary fruits; it is typically served as part of a salad or main course of a meal, rather than as a dessert. Tomatoes are not the only food source with this ambiguity; bell peppers, cucumbers, green beans, eggplants, avocados, and squashes of all kinds (such as zucchini and pumpkins) are all botanically fruit, yet cooked as vegetables. This has led to legal dispute in the United States. In 1887, U.S. tariff laws that imposed a duty on vegetables, but not on fruit, caused the tomato's status to become a matter of legal importance. The U.S. Supreme Court settled this controversy on May 10, 1893, by declaring that the tomato is a vegetable, based on the popular definition that classifies vegetables by use—they are generally served with dinner and not dessert (Nix v. Hedden (149 U.S. 304)). The holding of this case applies only to the interpretation of the Tariff of 1883, and the court did not purport to reclassify the tomato for botanical or other purposes.