Word Origin & History
1753, earlier tomate (1604), from Sp. tomate (1554) from Nahuatl tomatl "a tomato," lit. "the swelling fruit," from tomana "to swell." Spelling probably influenced by potato (1565). A member of the nightshade family, which all contain poisonous alkaloids. Introduced in Europe from the New World, by 1550
they were regularly consumed in Italy but only grown as ornamental plants in England and not eaten there or in the U.S. at first. An encyclopedia of 1753 describes it as "a fruit eaten either stewed or raw by the Spaniards and Italians and by the Jew families of England." Introduced in U.S. as part of a program by Sec. of State Thomas Jefferson (1789), but not commonly eaten until after c.1830. Alternative name love apple and alleged aphrodisiac qualities have not been satisfactorily explained; perhaps from It. name pomodoro, taken as from adorare "to adore," but probably actually from d'or "of gold" (in reference to color) or de Moro "of the Moors." Slang meaning "an attractive girl" is recorded from 1929.