Definition of tonka bean in US English:

tonka bean


  • The black seed of a South American tree, having a fragrance like that of vanilla. The dried beans are cured in rum or other alcohol and then used in perfumery and for scenting and flavoring tobacco, ice cream, and other products.

    The tree is Dipteryx odorata, family Leguminosae

    • ‘Perfume connoisseurs will love this scent, an incense-inspired mix of tobacco, vanilla and tonka bean.’
    • ‘The perfume is a blend of peppermint, lavender, patchouli, atlas cedarwood, coffee, styrax, musk and tonka bean.’
    • ‘However, the use of natural coumarin in food was banned in the USA in 1954, and the use of tonka beans restricted to perfume.’
    • ‘We were introduced to many exotic fruits like five fingers, tonka bean, pois doux, fat-pork, banga, donkey stones mangoes and sour cherry back then.’
    • ‘Tonka beans, sweet woodruff, and melilot are natural sources of coumarins commonly found in herbal teas.’


Late 18th century: tonka, a local word in Guyana.


tonka bean

/ˈtäNGkə ˌbēn//ˈtɑŋkə ˌbin/