One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1mass noun A scarlet dye used for colouring food, made from the crushed dried bodies of a female scale insect.
scarlet, vermilion, ruby, ruby-red, ruby-coloured, cherry, cherry-red, cerise, cardinal, carmine, wine, wine-red, wine-coloured, claret, claret-red, claret-coloured, blood-redView synonyms
- ‘His study deals with the production and marketing of cochineal from the mid-eighteenth century until the industry went into a rapid decline.’
- ‘It produces the colorant cochineal, otherwise known as carmine or E120.’
- ‘Traditional red colouring includes kermes and cochineal, both of which are pigments made by crushing masses of tiny insects.’
- ‘The most common animal dye was cochineal, a crimson colour which came from cactus eating insects, of which 17,000 were needed to produce one single ounce of dye.’
- ‘Cochineal became the standard dye for a wide variety of uses, from the red coats of British soldiers, to the red tints of artists' paints.’
- ‘The same options were available for dyeing the wool or cotton, which could be achieved at home using dyes such as cochineal and indigo.’
- 1.1 A dye similar to cochineal made from the oak kermes insect.See kermes
2The scale insect that is used for cochineal, native to Mexico and formerly cultivated on cacti.
Dactylopius coccus, family Dactylopiidae, suborder Homoptera
- ‘The cactus, or more precisely, the cochineal insects that feed on it yield a red-purple stain when crushed.’
- ‘The kermes was expensive and the abundant cochineal insect could be used to make a cheap substitute.’
- ‘The Aztecs cultivated cochineal and produced a red dye that was the brightest and strongest color Europe had ever seen.’
- ‘The brightly-coloured snack contains a red dye processed from the dried body of the female cochineal insect, collected in central America.’
- ‘Farmed, harvested, and dried by natives on small family plots, cochineal insects helped color the silks and wools of Hapsburg royalty.’
Late 16th century: from French cochenille or Spanish cochinilla, from Latin coccinus ‘scarlet’, from Greek kokkos ‘berry’ (the insect bodies were mistaken for grains or berries). Compare with coccus, kermes.
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