Origin: 152535; < Upper It articiocco, var. (by dissimilation) of arciciocco, arcicioffo < *arcarcioffo < OSp alcarchofa < dial. Ar al-ḫaruf the artichoke
Those who have been warned to watch out for the sharp-tipped bracts toward the innermost part of an artichoke may have wondered whether the name of this vegetable has anything to do with choking. Originally it did not. Our word goes back to an Arabic word for the same plant, al-ḫaruf. Along with many other Arabic words, it passed into Spanish during the Middle Ages, when Muslims ruled much of Spain. The Old Spanish word alcarchofa was variously modified as it passed through Italian, a northern dialect form being articiocco, the source of the English word. It was further modified in English, where a potpourri of spellings and explanations are found since its appearance early in the 16th century. For example, people who did not know the long history of the word explained it by the notion that the flower had a "choke", that is, something that chokes, in its "heart."
Dictionary.com. The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004.
Audrey in the French comments mentions the French expression avoir un cœur d’artichaut (to have an artichoke heart), which describes someone who falls in love with everything in sight. Am I right in thinking that a similarly colourful English equivalent doesn’t exist?