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!

5 thoughts on “Mexican Spanish Peculiarities: Tomate and Jitomate

  1. Conquerors leave behind children, language and disease. It can be argued that the first two make the conquered nation better. The third, not so much.

  2. I am from northern Mexico and have discussed with some people from Mexico City about their reason for naming a tomate a jitomate. Their reply mirrors your eplanation: for them, a green fruit is a tomate and a ripe one is a jitomate.

    If that is so, I said, then why do many processed foods that incorporate tomato paste in their preparation list as an ingredient “pasta de tomate” and not “pasta de jitomate”? Many of such examples are foodstuff produced in southern Mexico.

    To this my friends insist on their explanation but at least concede I have a point.


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