In this TimLymington's answer it is said:

Interestingly, there is another vegetable with the same identity problem; what the British call courgettes and the Americans zucchini.

What is the historical reason why there is this transatlantic difference?

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    I assume it's because England is pretty close to France, and there are lots of Americans of Italian descent. Mar 30, 2013 at 22:11
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    The British words are borrowed from French, while the American ones come from elsewhere. Eggplant is a novel coinage from a standard formula; zucchini is an Italian borrowing. There's also the vegetable which is called okra (an African borrowing) in the USA, but which I've seen called lady fingers in Malay and Indian English. This is the way dialects diverge and get distinguished, and food items, like other local quotidian terms, are the fastest and most likely to diverge. Mar 30, 2013 at 22:13
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    @tchris, I used "fruit" sic et simpliciter, but now I changed it with "food", thus improving enormously the question :^)
    – user19148
    Mar 30, 2013 at 22:42
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    Only tangently realted, when an AmEng speaker hears "lady's fingers" or "lady fingers" the connotation is likely either cookies or tiny fire-crackers.
    – TecBrat
    May 1, 2013 at 15:16
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    Italians have had more influence on USA than Britain and the French have had more influence on Britain than USA. That is the simple historical reason (i.e. the question being asked at the top).
    – Sam
    May 21, 2013 at 21:17

2 Answers 2


I wish I were allowed to answer the answer before mine, but I can't yet, so I'll just incorporate it in this answer. The reason why British English absorbed the word from French surely does not date back to the Norman Invasion, as the fruit was known to Europeans only after the discovery of America. Whilst the family Cucurbitaceae was cultivated everywhere, the genus Cucurbita (mostly squashes) was cultivated predominantly in South America. Then the Europeans came to American and took it to the Old World with them, and in the late 19th century Italians in Lombardia grew (invented) them.

The first assumption of my pre-poster — that the Italian immigrants brought the term to the US — might be feasible but not probable. The Italians invented it to late. But it could be that they just got along with the name given to it by its inventors, as did some other languages including German.

As for the French term, I can only assume that it may be connected to the intellectual or academic proximity of England and France at that time and to French still retaining some of its "lingua franca" properties in Europe which it had prior to the 20th century. But that is just an assumption.


To answer the question in this post "What is the historical reason why there is this transatlantic difference?":

Zucchini - Italian word used in USA

As a result of the large wave of Italian immigration to the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Italian and Sicilian were once widely spoken in much of the U.S.

Courgette - French word used in UK

During the Norman occupation (1066), about 10,000 French words were adopted into English, some three-quarters of which are still in use today. This French vocabulary is found in every domain, from government and law to art and literature.


American Italian Language

French Influence On English

  • The term courgettes was adopted in 1931, before the 19th century the vegetable itself was practically unknown. See this link english.stackexchange.com/questions/154263/…
    – Mari-Lou A
    Feb 27, 2014 at 11:21
  • The word "courgette" came from the word "courge" (which means gourd, another fruit of the same genus). Courge dates back to 1350 and courge itself originated from the latin "cucurbita". I think the question is about the word rather than the discovery or date of the vegetable itself.
    – Sam
    Sep 3, 2014 at 8:07
  • The question is asking why the vegetable has two different names. You explained the first part, but the Norman invasion (I believe) wasn't responsible for introducing courgettes/zucchini to the UK, or if you prefer, England. The term, courgettes, came much later and after the term, marrow, which is a British green vegetable not dissimilar.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Sep 3, 2014 at 10:09

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