"Mela" means apple, and "melanzana" means "eggplant."

I note in this context, that "manzana," which seems like a "cross" between mela and melanzana means "apple," in Spanish, a closely related Romance language.

And the French use "pomme de terre," that is "apple of the earth" as their description of potato.

On the other hand, "eggplant" is translated "aubergine" in French and "berenjena" "in Spanish. So I would expect the translation to be an Italian equivalent, something like "berengina." Except that it is not.

Here is a dictionary link that gives the definition, but makes no mention of apple.

So is there a context where "eggplant" is reasonably translated (in a non-English language) as "apple plant?" And is this actually the case in Italian?

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    Have you considered checking any dictionary? In the SE websites, one is expected to show «any background research you've tried but wasn't enough to solve your problem» (italian.stackexchange.com/help/quality-standards-error), while this question can be answered by simply opening any dictionary at the entry melanzana.
    – DaG
    Commented Aug 27, 2016 at 7:00
  • lastampa.it/2014/07/06/cronaca/rubriche/saper-spendere/…
    – Charo
    Commented Aug 27, 2016 at 9:23
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    As you might have noticed, most dictionaries, including several of those listed in our reference works section do give the etymology of each word. “Background research” means “I have found this and this here and here, but they contradict each other/they don't seem convincing/whatever for this and this reason”, not “I would expect so and so”.
    – DaG
    Commented Aug 27, 2016 at 13:05
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    @Charo: Your Mirriam Webster link technically answers my question, but your stampa article was much better.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Aug 27, 2016 at 13:56
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    @DaG: The problem is up to which point we can expect from a beginner to use dictionaries that are Italian only. The OP has opened a debate about this on Meta which is also interesting for me because I'm not sure about that.
    – Charo
    Commented Aug 27, 2016 at 20:47

2 Answers 2


According to Treccani dictionary, the word "melanzana" comes from Arabic "bādingiān" crossed with "mela". This is explained with some more detail in this La Stampa article. Latin word "mālum" means fruit and from this was derived the word "mela" or "melo" which, in the Middle Ages, was used to construct the name of some fruits: "melagrana", "melacotogna", "melangolo", "melone". In particular, "mela-bādingiān" gave rise to the word "melanzana".

According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, the Spanish word "manzana" comes from from Old Spanish "mazana" or "maçana", that derives from latin "māla Matiana", which comes from the name of Gaius Matius, a 1st century b.c. Roman writer on gastronomy.

A Catalan word for "eggplant" is "albergínia". According to Gran Diccionari de la llengua catalana this word also comes from Arabic "al-bādingiān" (note that "al" is the Arabic article). And according to this source and this other one, the Catalan term is at the origin of French and English "aubergine".

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Charo
    Commented Apr 16, 2018 at 22:13

Look at the web version of the Vocabolario Etimologico della Lingua Italiana by Ottorino Pianigiani.

For Melanzana see at: http://www.etimo.it/?term=melanzana&find=Cerca

enter image description here

EDIT rough translation:

french mérangène, mélongène; [from late latin belangolus, merangolus]: from spanish BERENGÉNA [which has been considered close to MÉLA by false etymology], the latter from arab BADINDGIAN

[[second paragraph, a botanical description of eggplants ... called Melongèna Arabum]]

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    This piece is entirely in Italian, without further English commentary from you, which is to say that it is "too advanced" for a rank beginner like me.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Aug 27, 2016 at 14:04
  • However according to Treccani and to La Stampa article linked in my previous comment, it comes from Arabic "bādingiān" crossed with "mela" or "melo", that comes from Latin "mālum" which means fruit.
    – Charo
    Commented Aug 27, 2016 at 15:29
  • It may be interesting to remark that the wiktionary claims that the Arabic al-bādingiān is also the origin of the Catalan albergínia and, from there, to the French and English aubergine. I was unable to find a more reliable source but it seems very plausible to me.
    – Denis Nardin
    Commented Aug 27, 2016 at 16:02
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    @DenisNardin: The Gran Diccionari de la llengua catalana confirms this etymology for the Catalan word. The origin of French and English terms is also mentioned here and here.
    – Charo
    Commented Aug 27, 2016 at 17:38
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    @TomAu: The part of the plant which is edible is the fruit: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eggplant.
    – Charo
    Commented Aug 30, 2016 at 7:14

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