How Did the Pomegranate Get its Name?
mobi-logo

Posted on 06 Feb 2014 15:07

The pomegranate got its name from the ancient Romans. They originally called it malum granatum. Malum is a Latin word for apple1, and granatum comes from the Latin word granum, meaning seed. That is also the source of the modern word grain. So, malum granatum refered to an apple with a lot of seeds, and the pulp surrounding the seeds of the pomegranate is the only edible part of the fruit. The word malum, however, also had another meaning: bad or evil. Perhaps for this reason, or through some kind of natural evolution, the name was changed to ponum granatum. Ponum was a Latin word for fruit, which could mean apple, as well. The word ponum became the French word for apple, pomme. The Latn word ponum granatum became the French word for the fruit, pome granate. Pome granate became the English pomegranate, some time in the 1300's.

Although the English version of the French name for the fruit has stuck with us, the French have long since changed the name. The pomme part of the name has been dropped and the granate eventually became grenade. If you think that sounds familiar, you're right, of course. Those little hand-held throwing bombs were developed in the seventeenth century, and they looked a bit like a pomegranate so they began to be called grenades. A grenadier, during the 17th century was a soldier who specialized in throwing grenades, but the modern term has different meanings, referring to guards or even to infantry.


pomegranate interior showing seeds and pulp
pomegranate interior showing seeds and pulp



Also, if you've ever had a cocktail with some grenadine in it, and wondered what grenadine syrup is, you now have your answer. It's a syrup made from pomegranate.

The ancient city of Granada, in Spain, is sometimes thought to be the source of the word pomegranate. It is therefore given to mean, by proponents of this belief, apple of Granada. However, the Spanish word for pomegranate is granatus, and many sources attest that this is the origin of the name of the city. There is some disagreement over this but it seems fairly clear that the English word pomegranate has nothing to do with the city of Granada.

The Spanish conquest of the Carribean led to the name Grenada being given to the island of Grenada, as well, where many pomegranates were found growing, in the 1400's. The term Grenada apples is sometimes used.


closeup view of pomegranate seeds

Pomegranate Seeds, Closeup View

closeup view of pomegranate seeds

Pomegranate Seeds, Closeup View



Even though our modern word for the fruit derived from Latin, the modern Latin scientific term for the pomegranate is Punica granatum. This reflects its membership in the Punicaceae family. The pomegranate is botanically a large berry, and the trees are native to Persia and the Himalayas. They are cultivated all through the Mediterranean region, Africa, Asia, and Europe. It came to the US with the Spanish in the late 1700's, and is grown in California and Arizona.

© 2016 by Eric Troy and CulinaryLore. All Rights Reserved. Please contact for permissions.