Definition of cinnabar in English:



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

    • ‘It is still possible to buy smears of cinnabar in the town of Huancavelica, located at 1,000 meters below the mine.’
    • ‘When he was only 15, an immortal taught him the art of refining cinnabar into a medicine that was said to cure all illnesses.’
    • ‘The Greek philosopher Theophrastus described a method for preparing mercury by rubbing cinnabar with vinegar in a clay dish.’
    • ‘Some of the oldest focus not on gold but on cinnabar, the red mineral mercury sulphide.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘In the 5th century B.C., Asian artists discovered that the mineral cinnabar produced a stable, vivid red.’
    • ‘The Taoist quest for longevity, begun in earlier times, persisted with research and experimentation in the consumption of cinnabar.’
    • ‘Cayenne pepper, which easily loses its red colour, was tinted with cinnabar, an extremely poisonous mercury compound.’
    • ‘Mercury is a persistent heavy metal, processed into a liquid from mined cinnabar.’
    • ‘This is when the first texts for obtaining mercury from its ore cinnabar appear.’
    • ‘The data obtained can be used as a reference for controlling soluble mercury contents in Chinese traditional patent medicines containing cinnabar.’
    • ‘The trail once led from the cinnabar or quicksilver mines of Mount St Helena to the port of San Pablo.’
    • ‘But, among what Ms. Moore lists as ‘poisonous’ pigments are cinnabar and realgar.’
    • ‘Red cinnabar had been sprinkled over the body and grave goods.’
    • ‘Allergy to tattoo pigment is rare, but reaction to cinnabar, the red pigment, is the most common.’
    • ‘The mineraloid is usually found in the ore cinnabar, where it must go through a heating and condensing process to be obtained.’
    • ‘Striking jewellery from these Toronto designers includes materials like black jade, amber and cinnabar.’
    1. 1.1 The bright red colour of cinnabar.
      as modifier ‘the blood coagulated in cinnabar threads’
      • ‘The yellow is paired with a brilliant, beautiful cinnabar red.’
      • ‘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 ocher yellow and cinnabar red walls suggest Morocco, while the citrus and grapevines in containers evoke Italy.’
      • ‘The white plaster dust had been washed out of his hair and now his rich cinnabar mane shone.’
      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

    • ‘Ragwort is the food plant for more than 70 species of insects, most notably the cinnabar moth.’
    • ‘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.’


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