How did apples get their names?
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Ever wondered how certain apples got their names? Here are the stories behind a few of our favorite apple varieties.

There’s a plethora of perfect produce this time of year, and our favorite seasonal snack happens to come in a whole range of colors, shapes, sizes, textures, and—names? Yes, naturally: Walking into the apple section at the grocery store can seem like stepping into a party full of strangers and being expected to immediately remember who’s who.

Thankfully, while it might be awkward to ask someone what they’re called after chatting with them for 30 minutes, the apples in this fall fruit party aren’t picky about what you call them, as long as you pick a peck and bake a pie.

In case you do want to remember your favorite apple’s name, however, here’s a little history lesson on how they got their monikers, and a tip or two about how to keep that information fresh in your mind

Granny Smith

Good ol’ Anne Smith discovered this tart green fruit in her Australian orchard after it sprouted by chance in 1868. Thought to be related at least in part to a French crabapple, you can think of this cultivar as being particularly “crabby,” just like Granny Anne if you interrupt her afternoon stories.

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Jonathan apples are squat and sweet, not unlike the (likely apocryphal) neighbor boy after whom Rachel Negus Higley supposedly named the fruit that appeared in her orchard, after they sprouted weirdly from seeds acquired from a cider mill nearby. Golden Delicious are actually not all too closely related to Red Delicious, but they grew alongside those famous mealy red apples in the commercial orchard known as Stark Brothers Nurseries. To capitalize on the Red Delicious name, these sweet and snappy yellow-green apples were given their “delicious” name. Jonagold apples, then, are a Jonathan crossed with a Golden Delicious—a portmanteau of their names—that was developed in the 1950s and is a perfect pie-stuffing blend of sweet and tart.

Related Reading: Are Apple Seeds Actually Poisonous?


On a visit to New Zealand by Queen Elizabeth II, the regent claimed that this compact, sweet, soft-fleshed variety was her favorite apple, which inspired its “Royal Gala” reception. Today this once kingly apple is simply just a regular grocery store staple, so the “Royal” often gets dropped from the name.

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It’s a little meta that the Big Apple also has an actual apple named after it, but the Empire is a classic-tasting cross that simply screams American pie, so it’s only fitting. The cultivar is a cross between Red Delicious and McIntosh, and made its debut in 1966. (McIntosh’s name is a little less exciting: It was simply discovered by a fellow named John McIntosh in 1811. Though we think having an apple named after you is the epitome of #goals.)

Pink Lady a.k.a. Cripps Pink

Australian apple grower John Cripps created this namesake variety in 1973, but the “lady” in its commonly used name comes from the fact that the cultivar is a cross-breed of Lady Williams and Golden Delicious varieties. The combination of the two strains caused Cripps’ fruit to turn a rosy pinkish hue, and both names are often used commercially for this tart and crunchy apple with the thick skin.

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Whether you think its food for the gods or a marshmallow and sour-cream “salad” made with maraschino cherries and coconut, ambrosia is certainly the stuff of legends. It’s that mythological connotation that inspired a family in British Columbia, Canada, to name this apple variety in the 1990s when it was discovered as a chance seedling in their orchard. Deep pink with a lovely shape and an almost cake-like texture, these certainly are worthy of exultation.


The tiny, longstanding variety known as Winesap actually seems to have started life called “Wine Sop,” as it so closely resembled a piece of bread soaked in wine. (You know, just a typical snack in 1804, the year the apple was first recorded.) These apples tend to taste close to their namesake, with an almost spicy, warming flavor and heavy aroma.

Related Reading: 13 Essential Apple Recipes for Fall

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Erin Meister (you can just call her "Meister") is both a longtime journalist and a coffee professional with nearly two decades' experience. She has written about food, coffee, film, travel, music, culture, and celebrity for The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Rachael Ray Every Day,, Time Out NY, Chickpea Magazine, Food & Wine's, BUST magazine, Barista Magazine, and more. She is the author of the brand-new book "New York City Coffee: A Caffeinated History (The History Press, 2017)".
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