Definition of nopal in English:



  • 1A cactus which is a major food plant of the bugs from which cochineal is obtained.

    Genus Nopalea, family Cactaceae: several species, in particular N. cochinellifera

    • ‘Cochineal - a red dye made from insects harvested from the nopal cactus - was the most lucrative export item after silver that Spain extracted from Mexico during the colonial period.’
    • ‘The Aztecs cultivated cochineal, a tiny insect that lived on the native nopal cactus and produced a red dye that was the brightest and strongest color Europe had ever seen.’
    1. 1.1nopales /nəʊˈpɑːlɛz/ The edible fleshy pads of the nopal cactus, used in Mexican cuisine.
      • ‘Canned nopales (plain, or in brine or a vinegar pickle) are available.’
      • ‘The plant produces flat, round pads (sometimes called nopales or nopalitos), which in some locales are sold in grocery stores for consumption.’
      • ‘There are stacks of mangoes and piles of nopales, baskets of dried chiles and vats of mole paste.’


Mid 18th century: via French and Spanish from Nahuatl nopalli ‘cactus’.