Solving the hot debate: Is it chili, chili or chile?

Have you ever looked at a word and just thought it looked wrong?

It’s not uncommon for two identical words in the English language to mean two completely different things. It’s also not uncommon to find multiple ways to spell the same word. That’s the case with chili peppers. Or is it chilli or even chile?


So, how do you really spell chili?

The thing is, you could argue all three are correct. The chili pepper has been around for a really long time. It’s also found in several different cultures, and in several different varieties. That’s why when you go to translate things like chile or chili, you end up with slightly different variations.


The first version contains two L’s. The word chilli comes from the time of the Aztecs and the Nahuatl language. Because around 1.5-million people still speak the language, this version of chilli is still used today.


The next possible version replaces the “i” with an “e” at the end. It’s just like the South American country of the same name. The word chile is how Spanish speakers in Mexico translated the Aztec word.


Finally, there’s chili. Think of this version as the U.S. translation of the original Aztec word. You’ll often hear people call them hot peppers, chili peppers, or you may hear chili paste, chili sauce or hot sauce.

According to the Chile Pepper Institute, chili is the word for a dish of beans, meat, tomatoes and chile powder, while chile is “the plant or fruit from the plant”. The dictionary, on the other hand, gives a couple of different answers.

So, who’s right? It depends on who you ask, but does it really matter? Whether chile or chili or chilli, let’s just agree to disagree. Delving into anything on the spicy scale is delicious, no matter how you spell it.

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