Definition of cinnabar in English:



  • 1mass noun A bright red mineral consisting of mercury sulphide, sometimes used as a pigment.

    • ‘Red cinnabar had been sprinkled over the body and grave goods.’
    • ‘The trail once led from the cinnabar or quicksilver mines of Mount St Helena to the port of San Pablo.’
    • ‘Mercury is a persistent heavy metal, processed into a liquid from mined cinnabar.’
    • ‘Some of the oldest focus not on gold but on cinnabar, the red mineral mercury sulphide.’
    • ‘The mineraloid is usually found in the ore cinnabar, where it must go through a heating and condensing process to be obtained.’
    • ‘The Greek philosopher Theophrastus described a method for preparing mercury by rubbing cinnabar with vinegar in a clay dish.’
    • ‘Allergy to tattoo pigment is rare, but reaction to cinnabar, the red pigment, is the most common.’
    • ‘In the 5th century B.C., Asian artists discovered that the mineral cinnabar produced a stable, vivid red.’
    • ‘The data obtained can be used as a reference for controlling soluble mercury contents in Chinese traditional patent medicines containing cinnabar.’
    • ‘But, among what Ms. Moore lists as ‘poisonous’ pigments are cinnabar and realgar.’
    • ‘Cayenne pepper, which easily loses its red colour, was tinted with cinnabar, an extremely poisonous mercury compound.’
    • ‘This is when the first texts for obtaining mercury from its ore cinnabar appear.’
    • ‘Striking jewellery from these Toronto designers includes materials like black jade, amber and cinnabar.’
    • ‘When he was only 15, an immortal taught him the art of refining cinnabar into a medicine that was said to cure all illnesses.’
    • ‘It is still possible to buy smears of cinnabar in the town of Huancavelica, located at 1,000 meters below the mine.’
    • ‘Instead of using traditional Japanese mineral pigments such as azurite, lapis, malachite and cinnabar mixed with gelatin, he employed his familiar oil paints and European gilding methods.’
    • ‘The Taoist quest for longevity, begun in earlier times, persisted with research and experimentation in the consumption of cinnabar.’
    1. 1.1 The bright red colour of cinnabar.
      as modifier ‘the blood coagulated in cinnabar threads’
      • ‘The thick curly mass of her cinnabar hair hung heavily, almost to her waist when wet.’
      • ‘In the 16 paintings in this show, Shinoda uses black sumi and cinnabar inks in asymmetrical compositions that balance empty space.’
      • ‘The yellow is paired with a brilliant, beautiful cinnabar red.’
      • ‘The white plaster dust had been washed out of his hair and now his rich cinnabar mane shone.’
      • ‘The ocher yellow and cinnabar red walls suggest Morocco, while the citrus and grapevines in containers evoke Italy.’
      scarlet, red, crimson, vermilion, cinnabar, wine, wine-coloured, claret, claret-red, claret-coloured
      View synonyms
  • 2A day-flying moth with black and red wings, whose black and yellow caterpillars feed on groundsel and ragwort.

    Tyria jacobaeae, family Arctiidae

    • ‘In recent years, ragwort hysteria has led to a decline in numbers of cinnabars.’
    • ‘Ragwort supports the life cycle of a multitude of creatures, most notably the cinnabar moth.’
    • ‘Ragwort is the food plant for more than 70 species of insects, most notably the cinnabar moth.’


Middle English: from Latin cinnabaris, from Greek kinnabari, of oriental origin.