[puh-tey-toh, -tuh] /pəˈteɪ toʊ, -tə/

noun, plural potatoes.
Also called Irish potato, white potato. the edible tuber of a cultivated plant, Solanum tuberosum, of the nightshade family.
the plant itself.
(defs 1, 2).
noun (pl) -toes
Also called Irish potato, white potato

any of various similar plants, esp the sweet potato
(slang) hot potato, a delicate or awkward matter

1560s, from Spanish patata, from a Carib language of Haiti batata “sweet potato.” Sweet potatoes were first to be introduced to Europe; in cultivation in Spain by mid-16c.; in Virginia by 1648. Early 16c. Portuguese traders carried the crop to all their shipping ports and the sweet potato was quickly adopted from Africa to India and Java.

The name later (1590s) was extended to the common white potato, from Peru, which was at first (mistakenly) called Virginia potato, or, because at first it was of minor importance compared to the sweet potato, bastard potato. Spanish invaders in Peru began to use white potatoes as cheap food for sailors 1530s. The first potato from South America reached Pope Paul III in 1540; grown in France at first as an ornamental plant. According to popular tradition, introduced to Ireland 1565 by John Hawkins. Brought to England from Colombia by Sir Thomas Herriot, 1586.

German kartoffel (17c.) is a dissimilation from tartoffel, ultimately from Italian tartufolo (Vulgar Latin *territuberem), originally “truffle.” Frederick II forced its cultivation on Prussian peasants in 1743. The French is pomme de terre, literally “earth-apple;” a Swedish dialectal word for “potato” is jordpäron, literally “earth-pear.”

Colloquial pronunciation tater is attested in print from 1759. Potato chip (n.) attested from 1879. To drop (something) like a hot potato is from 1824. Children’s counting-out rhyme that begins one potato, two potato first recorded 1885 in Canada. Slang potato trap “mouth” attested from 1785.


Related Terms

couch potato, hot potato, meat and potatoes, small potatoes, sweet potato


Read Also:

  • Potato-apple

    noun 1. the green berry of the potato.

  • Potato-bean

    noun 1. (def 1).

  • Potato blight

    noun 1. a devastating disease of potatoes produced by the oomycete Phytophthora infestans and the cause of the Irish potato famine of the mid-19th century

  • Potato bread

    noun a type of bread made with potato flour; also, a type of bread in which potato replaces a major portion of the regular wheat flour Examples The sweet, buttery taste, soft texture, and distinctive golden color make potato bread a favorite. Word Origin 1719 Usage Note cooking

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