Definition of cinnabar in English:



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

    • ‘In the 5th century B.C., Asian artists discovered that the mineral cinnabar produced a stable, vivid red.’
    • ‘Red cinnabar had been sprinkled over the body and grave goods.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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 Taoist quest for longevity, begun in earlier times, persisted with research and experimentation in the consumption of cinnabar.’
    • ‘The trail once led from the cinnabar or quicksilver mines of Mount St Helena to the port of San Pablo.’
    • ‘Allergy to tattoo pigment is rare, but reaction to cinnabar, the red pigment, is the most common.’
    • ‘But, among what Ms. Moore lists as ‘poisonous’ pigments are cinnabar and realgar.’
    • ‘The mineraloid is usually found in the ore cinnabar, where it must go through a heating and condensing process to be obtained.’
    • ‘Some of the oldest focus not on gold but on cinnabar, the red mineral mercury sulphide.’
    • ‘The Greek philosopher Theophrastus described a method for preparing mercury by rubbing cinnabar with vinegar in a clay dish.’
    • ‘It is still possible to buy smears of cinnabar in the town of Huancavelica, located at 1,000 meters below the mine.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Striking jewellery from these Toronto designers includes materials like black jade, amber and cinnabar.’
    • ‘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.’
    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.’
      • ‘In the 16 paintings in this show, Shinoda uses black sumi and cinnabar inks in asymmetrical compositions that balance empty space.’
      • ‘The thick curly mass of her cinnabar hair hung heavily, almost to her waist when wet.’
      • ‘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.

    • ‘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.