Eggplants will soon be appearing on our plates grilled, roasted, sautéed, baked — any way you please. We can't resist its versatility, shimmering purple skin, and hefty, oblong shape.
Like your sister's boyfriend, you may have accepted it without knowing much about it beyond its curious name and dramatic skin color. But while boyfriends come and go, the eggplant doesn't — so we think it's time to do a background check.
It keeps tomatoes and potatoes company in the nightshade family, but it's not technically a vegetable; it's a fruit, and furthermore, it's a berry (filled with nasty-tasting seeds, we might add).
It comes in different shapes and sizes, too. In Thailand, for instance, they grow like clusters of tiny, green grapes; in Chinese markets, they show up long and slender with a thin, purple skin. They also appear as small green or variegated purple balls, or squash-like, and sometimes their skin is yellow or white.
And around the world, it goes by many names. Here's how you say eggplant in almost every language.
The Etymology of Eggplant
John Gerard first described eggplants in his 16th-century Herball, or General Historie of Plants, as having "the bignesse of a Swans egge," and the name stuck, at least among English-speaking people.
According to Ina Lipkowitz, PhD, the etymology of its northern European name reads like a who's who of early marauders. The French and the British (copying the French), call eggplants aubergine, which is derived from the Sanskrit word vatinganah (literally, "anti-wind vegetable"). The Persians transformed that into badingan, and, after the Persians invaded Arabia, the Arabs added the indefinite article al calling it al-badhinjan.
When the Arabs swept through Spain, al-badhinjan lost its al, becoming known as berengena. But the northern Spanish retained al, transforming the word to alberginia, which the French mispronounced aubergine.
Still with us?
The list below shows the eggplant in its many guises and pronunciations so you can order eggplant parm wherever you travel.
29 Different Ways to Say Eggplant
- Arabic: الباذنجان [albadhinajan] = el BE they jan nin
- Afrikaans: eiervrug = ai YOUR th ruh
- Azerbaijani: badımcan = ba deem JAN
- Bengali: বেগুন [bēguna] = bay GOO na
- Burmese: ခရမ်းသီး [hkaramsee] = kai YAN dee
- Catalan: albergínia = alber TEEN nia
- Chinese: 茄子 [qiézi] = SEE ih jzuh
- Finnish: munakoiso = moo NA koi so
- French: aubergine = oh BEAR geen
- German: aubergine = oh BER geen na
- Greek: Μελιτζάνα [melitzána] = mel its ZAN na
- Hebrew: חציל [chatzil] = CHA tzeel
- Hindi: बैंगन [baingan] = bang UN, or Brinjal = brin jell, used in the Indian sub-continent
- Italian: melanzana = meh lahn DZAH na
- Japanese: ナス [nasu] = NA se
- Korean: 가지 [gaji] = HAD zee
- Lebanese: (باذنجان) [baathenjaan] = BET in jan
- Malyalam: വഴുതനങ്ങ [vaḻutanaṅṅa] = VIZ in e yam (Kerala language in southern India)
- Polish: bakłażan = ba KlA jean
- Portuguese: berinjela = bear ring je LA
- Russian: Баклажан [baklazhan] = bah KLA zhahn
- Serbian: Плави патлиџан [plavi patlidžan] = pla vee POT lee child
- Spanish: berenjena = baron HAY na Swahili – mbilingani = lee ling GA vee
- Thai: mak̄heụ̄x = ma KU ah
- Urdu: بینگن [bengan] = BANG gen (the linga franca of Pakistan)
- Vietnamese: cà tím = ka DEEM
What's your favorite way to eat eggplant?