The word, which entered the English language in the 17th century, has tended to oust the older word pulse, although the older term is still current.
Legumes grow throughout the world and were amongst the earliest food crops cultivated by man. The patterns established then have come down through history and it is striking that particular legumes have an overriding importance in individual countries. The haricot bean is associated with C. and S. America, the soya bean with E. Asia, lentils with India. See also the list of entries at the end.