Word Origin & History
1565, from Sp. patata, from Carib (Haiti) batata "sweet potato." Sweet potatoes were first to be introduced to Europe; in cultivation in Spain by mid-16c.; in Virginia by 1648. Early 16c. Port. traders carried the crop to all their shipping ports and the sweet potato was quickly adopted from Africa to
India and Java. The name later (1597) was extended to the common white potato, from Peru, which was at first (mistakenly) called Virginia potato, or, because at first it was of minor importance compared to the sweet potato, bastard potato. Sp. invaders in Peru began to use white potatoes as cheap food for sailors 1536. The first potato from South America reached Pope Paul III in 1540; grown in France at first as an ornamental plant. According to popular tradition, introduced to Ireland 1565 by John Hawkins. Brought to England from Colombia by Sir Thomas Herriot, 1586. Ger. kartoffel (17c.) is a dissimilation from tartoffel, ult. from It. tartufolo (V.L. *territuberem), originally "truffle." Frederick II forced its cultivation on Prussian peasants in 1743. The Fr. is pomme de terre, lit. "earth-apple;" a Swed. dialectal word for "potato" is jordpäron, lit. "earth-pear." Colloquial pronunciation tater is attested in print from 1759. To drop (something) like a hot potato is from 1846. Children's counting-out rhyme that begins one potato, two potato first recorded 1885 in Canada.