The word catchup was first recorded in English in 1690, and ketchup in 1711, followed by catsup in 1730. The source of the word ketchup may be the Malay word kēchap, possibly taken into Malay from the Cantonese dialect of Chinese. Kēchap was a sauce but without tomatoes. Like many condiments from that part of the world kēchap was a sauce of fish brine flavoured with spices and herbs. Sailors are likely to have brought the sauce to Europe, where it was made with locally available ingredients such as the juice of mushrooms or walnuts and ketchups in the 1700s and 1800s really only shared vinegar as a common ingredient. Tomatoes were a late addition.

Mrs Schultheis and Mrs Bingham were pillars of Pennsylvanian society. They first brewed tomato ketchup in whisky barrels in 1869. This was by no means unique. At the turn of the century there were an estimated 9000 ketchups being marketed. It is now ubiquitous to the extent that today "meat and two veg" in the States refers to burgers, chips (US: fries) and ketchup. In 1981 the Reagan administration tried to classify it as a vegetable to save money on the federal school-lunch budget. Heinz emerged as the pre-eminent manufacturer largely on the strength of its preservative-free food policy at the beginning of the 1900's. Tomato ketchup had a fairly murky start in life as a by-product of the canning industry. The rotten and misshapen bits were scooped up from the gutter, fermented in barrels and then boiled up in kettles over wood fires. This often scorched the mixture. In addition, it suffered from 'black neck' - the darkening of the sauce at the neck of the bottle when ferric compounds oxidise. Heinz Tomato Ketchup was first marketed in the United Kingdom in 1946