Origin: 1925–30, Americanism; < Italian, plural of zucchino, equivalent to zucc(a) gourd (see zucchetto) + -ino diminutive suffix
Usage note This vegetable (actually an immature fruit), borrowed from Italy along with its name, has, in its native Italian language, both a feminine form (zucchina, with the plural zucchine) and a masculine form (zucchino, with the plural zucchini). It is the latter plural that has made it into English. And as with other Italian foods that enrich our vocabulary along with our diets, we have imported a plural form—only to treat it as a singular noun. Spaghetti, ravioli, tortellini, and fettuccini grace not only our dinner tables but our dictionaries, which show that English speakers normally treat these terms as mass (that is, uncountable) nouns rather than as plurals. We say, “This spaghetti is delicious” or “I'd like some fettuccini,” since we are not referring to individual pieces but to a cooked or cookable dish of pasta. Jokingly, we occasionally acknowledge Italian grammar, as by claiming to pick up one thin “spaghetto” or a puffy “raviolo.” Zucchini, however, is different. Because of the vegetable's size, it is a count noun when whole; you can bring home six zucchini or zucchinis from the supermarket. But when it is sliced, cooked, and served, you once again have a dish of food that is talked about as a mass noun. And in that form, some zucchini is absolutely delicious.