If you’ve ever gone to a Mexican restaurant and attempted to order a lemon or lime with your food, you might have run into some issues. That’s because, at a glance, there doesn’t seem to be a commonly used name for limes.
This can leave travelers or those who are simply curious stumped about what to refer to limes as in Spanish. In this bite-sized post, we’ll be discussing why limes are called lemons in Mexico…or if they’re actually called something else.
Quick Answer: Why are Limes Called Lemons in Mexico?
The Spanish word for “lime” actually isn’t that easy to pinpoint. Depending on the country, the word varies, and some don’t even have a word for lime at all.
That being said, in Mexico, one of the more common phrases for lime is limon or lima.
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Confusion over the Spanish Words for Lemon and Lime
If you were to broaden the scope of your search beyond Mexico, you’d find that there’s a lot of confusion over what to call a lime or a lemon in various Spanish-speaking countries.
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Chile, in fact, has no word for lime at all. This is because limes aren’t very common in Chile.
In Bolivia, Ecuador, or Venezuela, the words for lemon and lime are switched around. Limone, a Spanish word that commonly refers to lemons, is actually used to describe limes.
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But Spanish speakers aren’t the only ones who might have difficulty agreeing on what to call a lemon or a lime. There’s been some confusion in English-speaking countries, as well.
There are a number of plants incorrectly called limes in English, such as the wild and Spanish limes. It’s pretty fair to say, then, that the debate over what exactly to call a lime is quite widespread.
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The History of the Word Lime
The confusion deepens further when you look at the roots of the word “lime.” Some have said that the word actually comes from the French equivalent, “limon.”
At the time, limon was used to refer to citrus fruit overall – not just limes. This broad application might be why so many other countries seem to use the words lemon and lime interchangeably.
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It’s true that the word for lime is inconsistent, with some calling it one thing and others calling it by other names. For that reason, lime might just be one of the world’s most confusing fruits.
Regardless of what exactly you call it, though, it remains delicious and refreshing. We know we’ll continue using it in our kitchen no matter what we end up needing to call it.
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