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 But that doesn’t stop me from enjoying my favorite dish of the local Portuguese canon, shrimp Mozambique, a spicy, buttery concoction stained orange with saffron and a spice mix containing annatto and turmeric. Globe Staff,, 20 Sep. 2022 Bubbling inside that cauldron is a heady, 17-plus-ingredient stew that includes chiles, ground annatto seeds, cinnamon and banana leaves briefly fried in brisket fat. Washington Post, 15 June 2022 It might be replaced with fish sauce and annatto to make adobong pula (red adobo), with turmeric to make adobong dilaw (yellow adobo), or skipped entirely for adobong puti (white adobo). Bettina Makalintal, Bon Appétit, 19 Oct. 2021 In the northern states, the sauce is simpler, not stained red with annatto, but more of a rich broth in which to dip the meat in. Minerva Orduño Rincón, The Arizona Republic, 24 Apr. 2022 Pogiboy also offers an inasal, or grilled, chicken, its skin bronzed from a marinade featuring annatto oil, lemongrass, coconut vinegar and Royal Tru orange soda. Washington Post, 25 Nov. 2021 Kare-kare is all about the sauce, which gets its flavor and reddish-bronze color from a dose of annatto seeds and bagoong, or fermented shrimp paste. Bon Appétit, 17 Aug. 2021 This is my take on sazón, minus the MSG, and with turmeric added along with the standard annatto to imbue dishes with a golden hue. New York Times, 22 Mar. 2021 Once the oxtail is tender, slowly add the ground peanuts, peanut butter and the annatto water. Tara Duggan,, 30 Oct. 2020 See More

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.

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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Last Updated

3 Oct 2022

Cite this Entry

“Annatto.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Oct. 2022.

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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

More from Merriam-Webster on annatto

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


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