Capsicum (/ˈkæpsɪkəm/), the pepper, is a genus of flowering plants in the nightshade family Solanaceae. Its species are native to the Americas, where they have been cultivated for thousands of years. Following the Columbian Exchange, it has become cultivated worldwide and it has also become a key element in many cuisines. Capsicum species have also been used as medicines and lachrymatory agents.
The generic name may come from Latin capsa, meaning 'box', presumably alluding to the pods; or from the Greek word κάπτω kapto, 'to gulp'. The name "pepper" comes from the similarity of piquance (spiciness or "heat") of the flavor to that of black pepper, Piper nigrum, although there is no botanical relationship with it or with Sichuan pepper. The original term, chilli (now chile in Mexico) came from the Nahuatl word chīlli, denoting a larger Capsicum variety cultivated at least since 3000 BC, as evidenced by remains found in pottery from Puebla and Oaxaca. Different varieties were cultivated in South America, where they are known as ajíes (singular ají), from the Quechua term forpsicum