Today I Found Out host Simon Whistler explains how potatoes came to be called spuds. Whistler explains the history of the connection between the word and the tuber, although the origin of the word “spud” itself is less clear.
Among other definitions, a “spud” is a “sharp, narrow spade” used to dig up large rooted plants. Around the mid-19th century (first documented reference in 1845 in New Zealand), this implement of destruction began lending its name to one of the things it was often used to dig up, namely potatoes. This caught on throughout the English speaking world and this slang term for a potato is still common to this day.