One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1A scarlet dye used chiefly for coloring food.
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
- ‘Traditional red colouring includes kermes and cochineal, both of which are pigments made by crushing masses of tiny insects.’
- ‘The same options were available for dyeing the wool or cotton, which could be achieved at home using dyes such as cochineal and indigo.’
- ‘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.’
- ‘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.’
- ‘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.’
- 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 widely cultivated on cacti.
Dactylopius coccus, family Dactylopiidae, suborder Homoptera
- ‘The kermes was expensive and the abundant cochineal insect could be used to make a cheap substitute.’
- ‘The cactus, or more precisely, the cochineal insects that feed on it yield a red-purple stain when crushed.’
- ‘The brightly-coloured snack contains a red dye processed from the dried body of the female cochineal insect, collected in central America.’
- ‘The Aztecs cultivated cochineal and produced a red dye that was the brightest and strongest color Europe had ever seen.’
- ‘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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