Pumpkin is a gourd-like squash of the genus Cucurbita and the family Cucurbitaceae (which also includes gourds). They are typically orange or yellow and have many creases running from the stem to the bottom. They have a thick shell on the outside, with seeds and pulp on the inside.
The word pumpkin originates from the word pepon (πέπων), which is Greek for “large melon". The French adapted this word to pompon, which the British changed to pumpion and later American colonists changed that to the word we use today, "pumpkin". The origin of pumpkins is not definitively known, although they are thought to have originated in North America. The oldest evidence, pumpkin-related seeds dating between 7000 and 5500 B.C., were found in Mexico. Pumpkins are a squash-like fruit that range in size from less than 1 pound (0.45 kilograms) to over 1,000 pounds (453.59 kilograms).
Pumpkins generally weigh 9–18 lbs (4–8 kg) with the largest (of the species C. maxima) capable of reaching a weight of over 75 lbs (34 kg). The pumpkin varies greatly in shape, ranging from oblate through oblong. The rind is smooth and usually lightly ribbed. Although pumpkins are usually orange or yellow, some fruits are dark green, pale green, orange-yellow, white, red and gray.
Pumpkins are commonly carved into decorative lanterns called jack-o'-lanterns for the Halloween season in North America. Throughout Britain and Ireland, there is a long tradition of carving lanterns from vegetables, particularly the turnip, mangelwurzel, or swede. Not until 1837, however, does jack-o'-lantern appear as a term for a carved vegetable lantern, and the carved lantern does not become associated specifically with Halloween until 1866.