What's the difference between fruits and vegetables?

I just want to clarify something. So fruits ARE vegetable? Are they just a sub-category of veggies?

Reading that article I didn’t come away with a clear understanding of either.

It’s actually a Science Advisory Board supplement, not something from Cecil himself.

As Terey says in the article, it is confusing because, while there is a precise botanical definition of “fruit,” it’s not exactly congruent with the culinary definition. That’s because we think of things as fruits if they’re sweet, juicy, and, typically, something you can snack on, while vegetables are savory and more likely to be found as part of a prepared dish. Therefore, things that are anatomically fruits but which are traditionally consumed the same way we eat vegetables (tomatoes, squash, cucumbers) are culinarily (and commonly) thought of as veggies. And this makes sense because these fruits are nutritionally closer to eating broccoli or carrots than starfruit or pineapple.

But if you’re talking about the technical definition, then a fruit is a mature ovum, nuts and grains are subcategories of fruit, and vegetables are any edible part of a plant that isn’t a fruit.


No, vegetable is a purely culinary term, not a botanical.

Here is an interesting case from memory. The SC was asked to decide whether a Tomato was a fruit or vegetable for Tariff purposes.

Vegetable is a culinary term.

Fruit can be either a culinary term or a botanical term.

Comparing the botanical definition of fruit to the culinary definition of vegetable is non-sensical.

Yes – I was careless there.


What I can’t understand is why everyone always fixates on fruits for this question. People will say that “a tomato isn’t really a vegetable; it’s really a fruit”. But nobody ever says “a carrot isn’t really a vegetable, it’s really a root”, or “spinach isn’t really a vegetable; it’s really a leaf”. All vegetables are parts of plants, and many different kinds of plant parts can be vegetables. Some vegetables are fruits, some are roots, some are leaves, and some are various other parts of plants.

“Vegetable” is not an exclusively culinary (or dietary) term. It has been used in English to refer to non-animal life generally since the middle ages, and that is, in fact, the original meaning.

as in "animal, mineral or vegetable?’

Has been and is do not mean the same thing. Do you have evidence that it is currently commonly in use as anything other than a culinary or dietary term?

I should have added “in this context”.

If you pluck it off the plant and eat it, it’s a fruit. If you’re eating the plant, it’s a vegetable. Of course that means that pumpkins are fruits because they’re picked off a pumpkin vine, but there you go.

That definition would also make spinach a fruit.

Also parsley.

This thread obviously needs a link to a certain Frank Zappa song.

I don’t think I’ve ever met an adult who had a problem with this. Everybody seems to know that all plants are vegetables, and some of them have fruit. Everybody may not know a formal definition for fruit, but they have a pretty good idea, and it’s pretty easy to explain. I just don’t see this as a great mystery, or area of widespread ignorance either.

“Animal, vegetable, or mineral” has already been mentioned. Aside from that, the OED cites it as recently as 1978.

“No, vegetable is a purely culinary term, not a botanical.” Not being impolite I hope but so what? Vegetable still refers to a part of a plant that you eat which is not a fruit or nut. In THIS context, the context of the question the culinary definition is what matters. The questioner was obviously not a botonist or biology major. They were just asking what is the difference that causes some plant products to be called fruits and others called vegetables. Adding to the very good answer to which you took exception I would say that “fruit” almost always refers to SWEET objects that cover or contain the seed of the plant. Nuts are seeds covered with a hard shell. An apple or peach or mango is the typical “fruit”. Things with result from a mature flower, but are not sweet are generally called vegetables even though they contain the seeds. Squash, pumpkins, eggplants (gross) and okra will almost always be called vegetables by almost everyone. I except botonists and other troublemakers, ok? Tomatoes cause some people to hesitate because they are soft like most fruits, but…well, most people decide… they aren’t QUITE sweet enough so maybe they’re a vegetable. I would say that tomatoes are the dividing line for most people. Now WOMEN contain the eggs, like the seeds of the next generation so is that why effeminate men are called fruits?

Vegetable dyes. Vegetable fibers. Vegetable tanning. Those are just the three that immediately popped into my head.

Me wonders why some men are called nuts.:wink: