'Catsup' vs 'Ketchup': What's the Difference?

By Carly Forsaith, updated on February 7, 2023

If you're conflicted about the difference between 'catsup' vs 'ketchup,' you've come to the right place. In this article, we'll look at the meaning of each word and when to use them.

In short, 'catsup' and 'ketchup' are two different words that refer to the same condiment. 'Ketchup' is more popular these days.

What's the Difference Between 'Catsup' vs 'Ketchup'?

For a long time, the famous tomato-based condiment has also been referred to as 'catsup.' The word 'ketchup 'only became the preferred term relatively recently. And interestingly enough, it wasn't always a tomato-based sauce, either.

It's safe to say that the more popular term of the two is now 'ketchup,' although 'catsup' still gets used occasionally, so it's not incorrect.

If you're not sure which one to use, I would recommend defaulting to 'ketchup' unless you're referring to a specific brand that uses the term' catsup,' in which case you should adhere to their preference because you're referring to a proper noun.

Let's find out a bit more about ketchup and its origins.

Definition of 'Catsup' vs 'Ketchup'

'Catsup,' or as it's more commonly known nowadays, refers to a tomato-based condiment that you can use to season your french fries, burger, chicken nuggets…or really any dish you like.

The words' catsup' and 'ketchup' are primarily nouns but can also be used as adjectives, like in the phrase 'ketchup sauce.'

There are some controversial uses of ketchup with food, such as using it for seasoning pizza or steak, but that just comes down to each person's preference.

The word 'catsup' was the term initially used for what we now think of as ketchup. There are several theories as to where it comes from. Some believe it was derived from the Malaysian fish sauce 'kichap'; others think it's based on the Chinese brine of fish' koechiap.'

Either way, ketchup wasn't always the way we think of it now. In fact, it wasn't until the 1800s that tomatoes found their way into the sauce by way of a cookbook published that century.

You've probably heard of the ketchup brand 'Heinz,' which incidentally was primarily responsible for popularizing the condiment. Would it surprise you to know that they originally called it 'catsup?' It wasn't until the 1880s that the brand decided to officially switch the name to 'ketchup' as a way to stand out from the competition.

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'Catsup' vs 'Ketchup'

So how do you pronounce the two words? Well, the good news is that they are both pronounced the same. The International Phonetics Alphabet spells them like this:

/ ˈkɛtʃ əp /

And when pronounced out loud, they sound like this:

[ kech-uhp ]

Although sometimes 'catsup' is pronounced as such:

[ kat-suhp ]

When to Use 'Ketchup'

Now we're clear on the meaning of the words, and we've established that they're pretty much interchangeable (although 'ketchup' is definitely more popular), let's take a look at the word 'ketchup' used in example sentences.

I'll just use 'ketchup,' but remember the two are interchangeable, so you can use either.

Could you pass me the ketchup?

Dinner's almost ready, but we don't have any ketchup.

The recipe calls for eggs, flour, and ketchup.

In my opinion, the more ketchup you put on fries, the better.

Ketchup is a tomato-based condiment that usually contains allspice and vinegar.

Concluding Thoughts

That concludes today's article about the difference between 'catsup' and 'ketchup.' Let's summarize:

  • 'Catsup' and 'ketchup' are interchangeable
  • 'Ketchup' is the more commonly used term
  • It's usually a noun but can also be an adjective
  • 'Ketchup' is a tomato-based sauce

If you'd like to learn about more confusing words, don't hesitate to visit our blog, where we've published many articles that help you improve your English each and every day.

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Written By:
Carly Forsaith
Carly Forsaith is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Carly is a copywriter who has been writing about the English language for over 3 years. Before that, she was a teacher in Thailand, helping people learn English as a second language. She is a total grammar nerd and spends her time spotting language errors on signs and on the internet.

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