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Is It 'Ketchup' or 'Catsup'?

Updated on June 24, 2018
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Rev. Margaret Minnicks is an ordained Bible teacher. She posts many articles online that are really Bible lessons.

Sometimes there is a debate about the words "ketchup" and "catsup." Some argue that there is a difference between the two and their tastes are different because their ingredients are different. The only difference between ketchup and catsup is their spelling.

The Condiment

Ketchup or catsup is a sweet-and-sour condiment typically made with tomatoes, vinegar, sugar, or high-fructose corn syrup, and vegetable seasonings and spices such as onions, allspice, cloves, cinnamon, garlic, and celery.

Ketchup is often used to enhance the flavor of foods. It is used on hamburgers, hotdogs, French fries, sandwiches and some meats. Some people eat ketchup on their scrambled eggs and fried fish. It is used in meatloaf and other dishes as well as a base for various sauces.

Today most people don't say "tomato catsup." When the first ketchup or catsup was made in China, there were no tomatoes in it at all. Today there is mushroom ketchup sold in Britain and banana ketchup sold in the Philippines.

Origin of the Words

The condiment was first called catsup when it was made without tomatoes. Tomatoes were not used until 1801. When H. J. Heinz first started distributing the condiment, it was still called catsup. When Heinz began mass producing the product in 1837, the word was changed to ketchup so it would stand out from the rest, and the company no longer used the word catsup.

According to a Heinz spokesperson, Henry John Heinz first brought his product to market as “Heinz Tomato Catsup.” He changed the spelling early on to distinguish it from competitors. Hunt's followed suit by switching the name of its product from catsup to ketchup. Del Monte called it catsup until 1988. Then it got on board with everyone else since that was the spelling of choice for Americans.

Therefore, "ketchup" is the most popular word used today by the public and is used by all the major companies that make it.

Ketchup and catsup are acceptable spellings and are used interchangeably, but ketchup is used more often.


The word "ketchup" originated around 1711 to describe a fish sauce called "kecap" in China. The tomato-based sauce that we now call "ketchup" arrived in the early 1800's in recipes.

When the Heinz company started selling bottled "tomato ketchup," it became the most popular tomato-based ketchup sold in the United States. Therefore, the word "tomato" was dropped and "ketchup" became popular to this day.

When ketchup or catsup was first made, it contained no tomatoes. People didn't say tomato ketchup even though some people say it today.


For a while, the word "catsup" was more commonly used in this country. It lost its popularity after large companies like Heinz and Hunt's called their product "ketchup."

Ketchup and catsup are the same. The condiment is just spelled differently. How you spell it is up to you.

To Be Grammatically Correct

Even though it is pronounced the same, some people spell it "ketchup" and some people spell it "catsup." So, which is it: ketchup or catsup?

For those who want to be grammatically correct when writing, both words are acceptable spellings. They are used interchangeably, but ketchup is the more popular word because of the two large companies that manufacture it. Heinz and Hunt used ketchup even though Heinz started out using catsup. Most fast-food restaurants use ketchup instead of catsup.

Even though catchup is the least popular in the United States, don't discount the word because it still exists. There are a few companies around the world that use catsup. In the end, ketchup has won the debate, and it is the more popular and recognized of the two words.

There is such a thing as a ketchup cake. People who have eaten it say it is very tasty.
There is such a thing as a ketchup cake. People who have eaten it say it is very tasty.

Unusual Uses for the Condiment

No matter how you spell the word, there are dozens of unusual uses for the condiment that has nothing to do with eating it.

Ketchup is a big hit when it comes to being used as a beauty aid, a cleaning agent, and many other uses around the house and yard.

  • Use ketchup as a facial to exfoliate the skin. The lycopene and vitamins A, C, and K are good for the skin.
  • When men run out of shaving cream, they can use ketchup if they don't mind the red substance on their face.
  • If hair changes its color from chlorine in a pool, use ketchup to get it back to normal.
  • Use ketchup to soothe insect bites. It really works.
  • Ketchup can be used as a metal polish for jewelry, copper pans and spots on your car.
  • Use ketchup to get rid of rust on garden furniture.
  • Put pancake batter in a squeeze ketchup bottle to get nice round pancakes.

Which do you write?

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