I was reading the etymology of the Latinate English verb 'inoculate' which contains the following part that generated the question entitled above:

[...] inoculare "graft in, implant a bud or eye of one plant into another," from in- "in" (see in- (2)) + oculus "bud," originally "eye" (see eye (n.)).

The OED confirms 'eye' as a synonym of 'bud,' but I doubt that 'potato buds' generated this meaning because it already existed in Classical Latin that (I am assuming) South Americans did not speak in the 1500s when they introduced potatoes to the Spaniards.

  • $\begingroup$ Maybe its cause the buds can "open" into a larger structure, like an eye lid can "open" in general. That's just a random guess though $\endgroup$
    – Ro Siv
    Commented Jan 3, 2016 at 5:05
  • $\begingroup$ Also, my answer is just one perspective. There can be many more reasons :D $\endgroup$
    – user18914
    Commented Jan 3, 2016 at 5:56
  • $\begingroup$ You might get a better answer on linguistic.SE. $\endgroup$
    – Remi.b
    Commented Jan 3, 2016 at 6:44
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @AliceD who knows? But I think because none of us immediately know doesn't mean that the answer is not known or that any potential answer is necessarily opinion based. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 26, 2017 at 20:09
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is a question about etymology not biology. $\endgroup$
    – David
    Commented Sep 6, 2017 at 8:14

1 Answer 1


Just take a look at a potato and observe each of its eyes. You will see that each of them has two parts:

1) An "eyebrow" : this is a vestigial leaf

2) A small bud in the axil of that leaf

Thus, the two of them together form an eye + eyebrow

The eyes are not evenly distributed in a potato plant. One side may have just one or two but the other side will have lots of them. This is because that is the growing spot!


Eyes of a potato

  • $\begingroup$ Please provide some support/reference for this answer if possible. Right now it comes across as your own opinion. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 26, 2017 at 21:13

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