Mexican Spanish Peculiarities: Tomate and Jitomate

My first year in Mexico, I never questioned the difference between “tomate” and “jitomate” when it came to the red sphere of deliciousness, the tomato. Everyone knew what I meant when I said tomate and I understood jitomate if I saw it in a recipe.

Last night, my curiosity finally overtook me and I did some research. I was surprised by what I discovered.

In most of the Spanish-speaking world and about half of Mexico (northern and Baja), this is a tomate:

Well, in the other half (central and southern), that fruit above is a jitomate and this is a tomate:

Got that? In a very small part of the Spanish-speaking world, a red tomato is a jitomate and a green tomato is a tomate.

I found a map that shows which Mexican states use only tomate (they include Sinaloa) and which use tomate and jitomate (they include Yucatán). Follow that link to learn more about the difference between tomate and jitomate.

Fun fact: both tomate and jitomate come from the Nahuatl (Aztec) word xiltomatl. I am learning that just as Canadian English has incorporated Native American words, so has Mexican Spanish. I expect to start picking up Maya and Maya-infused Spanish now that I live in Yucatán!

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