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Nando's chain of restaurants (UK) refers to chili peppers as just "chilies". My friend and I had a discussion with regard to whether chilies can be called "peppers" or if they do not belong to the pepper family at all. In fact, my friend added that there are 2 types of this specimen - "chilies" and "chili peppers."
To what extent is this all true, and what exactly are chilies?

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Chili is a common reference to chili peppers in an abundance of countries, but they fall within the same designation as other so-called "peppers" such as bell pepper, cayenne, jalapeno, etc. because they are all of the same genus Capsicum. They differ, however, from traditional real peppers (black pepper for example) of the Piperaceae family. Capsicum actually belongs to the nightshade family (Solanaceae), but so do potatoes.

The word pepper originates from a south Indian term for the long pepper plant which was used as spice at the time and is a member of the Piperaceae family. I think that people have generalized chili as a pepper in this case due to the heat component, but this section of the answer is also off topic for this site.

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All the bell peppers and chilli peppers and jalapeno's and cayenne peppers are the same species, Capsicum annuum. The bell pepper was developed in the 1920's from a hotter variety. Here are photos of the wild varieties: https://www.fataliiseeds.net/product-category/wild_chiles/ They are berries. All the american plants like tomatos and potatoes are all from the american nightshade family, Solanaceae, which evolved after America and Africa devided 180 million years ago. they are New World plants.

CKM gives you the information for paprika, a different type of plant from i.e. Sri-Lanka https://twitter.com/srilankanflora/status/773690156385644545. Black peppercorns were found stuffed in the nostrils of Ramesses II, placed there as part of the mummification rituals shortly after his death in 1213 BCE.

The only ambiguous nightshade plant which arrived before the conquest of the Americas is the datura plant, also a cousin of the pepper family, for which illustrations in indian books exist from 800 years ago, although that is a mystery and yet to be proven by DNA. If it did arrive in the old world in ancient times, then it may have arrived as seed through the Bering straights or through natural dissemination.

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Chilis are from the New World, and as CMosychuk has answered, belong in the Capsicum genus. Their name derives from the Aztec Nahuatl word for the plant chilli, and this name has been used by the Aztecs to refer to the plant prior to Spanish contact and spread of the plant to the Old World.

The pepper, however, belongs to the completely unrelated Piper genus, and the plant originated in the Old World. Its etymology derives from the Sanskrit word pippali, also referring to the plant. As the Etymonline entry suggests, the word "pepper" was also used to refer to the Capsicum plants when they were first introduced to the Old World, perhaps due to their similar spicy taste.

Therefore, it is not the case that chilis are peppers, since the Capsicum genus has no recent genetic relation to the Piper genus.

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