an·​nat·​to | \ ə-ˈnä-(ˌ)tō How to pronounce annatto (audio) \

Definition of annatto

1 : a yellowish-red dyestuff made from the pulp around the seeds of a tropical American tree (Bixa orellana)
2 : the tree from which annatto is derived also : its dried seed used to color and flavor food

Examples of annatto in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Today, the color most often comes from annatto, a food coloring and condiment made from the seeds of the achiote tree, and/or paprika. Sarah Jampel, Bon Appétit, "Why Is Cheddar Cheese Orange Sometimes?," 17 Dec. 2019 The sauce almost takes on the texture of an Italian ragù, with the meat slowly disintegrating into a thick gravy that’s stained reddish-gold by achuete (annatto). New York Times, "Angela Dimayuga’s 10 Essential Filipino Recipes," 7 Oct. 2019 According to Windsor, many cheesemakers use annatto, a food coloring derived from the seeds of the achiote tree, give their cheddar a rich orange hue. Meghan Overdeep, Southern Living, "Finally: The Difference Between White and Orange Cheddar Cheese Explained," 17 Oct. 2019 Best of all, the smell of geranium, hibiscus, and annatto seed lingers on my skin throughout the day. Aliza Abarbanel, Bon Appétit, "The Bar Soap That's Saving My Skin This Fall," 11 Oct. 2019 Combine the oil and annatto in a small nonstick skillet. Los Angeles Times, "Garlicky Shrimp and Egg Stir-Fry," 21 Aug. 2019 The McCafe Pumpkin Spice flavored syrup contains: fructose, water, nonfat dry milk, propylene glycol, and 2% or less caramel color, natural flavor, potassium sorbate, xanthan gum, salt, sucralose, and extracts of annatto. Cynthia Sass, Mph,, "What to Know About Pumpkin Spice Lattes, From a Nutritionist Who Loves Them," 13 Aug. 2019 The hallmarks of longganisa are savory pork, a vivid red color imparted by paprika or annatto, and a marked sweetness. Sunset Magazine, "This Open-Fire Filipino Feast Is Ideal for a Backyard BBQ or Campfire Gathering," 22 Jan. 2018 Ingredients like ground annatto seeds, shrimp paste, banana flour buds and Chinese long beans can be found in Asian markets —and certainly any of San Diego’s many Filipino markets. San Diego Union-Tribune, "3 chefs share recipes inspired by their cooking dads," 11 June 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'annatto.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of annatto

1629, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for annatto

borrowed from Cumaná (Cariban language of coastal Venezuela) onoto or a cognate Cariban source

Note: A loan from a Cariban language, but the direct source is not certain; it may have been a trade word transmitted through local Spanish. The word is first attested in Robert Harcourt's A Relation of a Voyage to Guiana (1613) ("There bee many rare and singular commodities for Diers, of which sort there is a red Berry called Annoto, which being rightly prepared by the Indians, dyeth a perfect and sure Orange-tawnie in Silke…"). (Friederici, in Amerikanistisches Wörterbuch, Hamburg, 1947, attributes the word inaccurately to Walter Raleigh's The Discovery of Guiana [1596]; the word was used by Raleigh in the form onotto, but only in the manuscript journal of his 1617 voyage.) The word onoto, glossed achiote, is listed in Matias Ruiz Blanco's Arte y Tesoro de la Lengua Cumanagota (1690); for later Cariban attestations see Friederici's Amerikanistisches Wörterbuch. The more general Cariban word for "annatto" is represented by Surinamese and Guyanese Carib (Karina) kusewe (see Friederici, also Henk Courtz's A Carib Grammar and Dictionary [Magoria Books, 2008]).

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The first known use of annatto was in 1629

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Cite this Entry

“Annatto.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for annatto


an·​nat·​to | \ ə-ˈnät-(ˌ)ō How to pronounce annatto (audio) , -ˈnat- How to pronounce annatto (audio) \

Medical Definition of annatto

: a yellowish red dyestuff made from the pulp around the seeds of a tropical tree (Bixa orellana of the family Bixaceae) and used especially for coloring oils, butter, and cheese

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More from Merriam-Webster on annatto

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with annatto

Spanish Central: Translation of annatto

Nglish: Translation of annatto for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about annatto

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