European countries often have different names for common things that manage to sound more refined. French fries are called chips in the UK, for instance, and potato chips are called crisps.
It can get a little confusing. Oftentimes, though, whether it’s the actual word or just the accent, many of these alternative names sound posh.
Perhaps the greatest example is the word commonly used for eggplant: aubergine. It just rolls off the tongue, almost sounding like something you’d name a person.
Although it sounds lovely, it’s still perfectly reasonable to wonder why eggplant is called aubergine. We’ve done a dive into the history of the name, which we’ll be sharing with you here.
Quick Answer: Why is Eggplant Called Aubergine?
Out of the many names other foods are known by, aubergine has one of the longest histories. It’s difficult to condense it.
The briefest we can put it is this: aubergine is a word borrowed from the French. Its roots come from an Arabic word, al-badinjan.
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A More In-Depth Look at the Name Aubergine
You know that the word aubergine came from France. But its roots dig far deeper and farther than only that. If you keep pulling at the thread of its name, more and more comes out.
The French word also has roots. It came from an Arabic name for the fruit, al-badinjan. Keep pulling at this thread, and you’ll find Persian origins in the Sanskrit word vatimgana.
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Vatimgana supposedly refers to eggplant’s rumored ability to help with stomach distress. It translates to, “the plant that removes windy humor.”
This just goes to show how long eggplants have been cultivated. It’s been said that out of all the words in the English language, this one has undergone one of the greatest amounts of change while still keeping its original meaning.
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Is There a Right Name?
Given that eggplant has so many names, you might be wondering if there’s a proper name for it.
That depends on where you’re located. Most of the time, what you call something is due to the culture you grew up in.
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There’s certainly no reason why you couldn’t call eggplant aubergine if you live in the United States, and eggplant if you live in the UK. No name is more “right” than the others. It’s a matter of personal preference and if you feel most comfortable calling it by one name over another.
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The fact that eggplant has so many names is a sign of one thing: it’s an important food. It’s been around for hundreds of years, and we anticipate it will continue to be here for a long time.
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What you call it is likely indicative of where you grew up. Whether your call it eggplant or aubergine, though, it’s still the earthy and desirable plant we’ve come to love.
Curious how certain fruits and vegetables got their names? Check out this related article: Why are Limes Called Lemons in Mexico?