ca·​cao | \ kə-ˈkau̇ How to pronounce cacao (audio) , kə-ˈkā-(ˌ)ō \
plural cacaos

Definition of cacao

1 or cacao bean : a dried, fermented, fatty seed of the fruit of a South American evergreen tree (Theobroma cacao of the family Sterculiaceae) that is used in making cocoa, chocolate, and cocoa butter : cocoa bean … polyphenols also make cacao beans taste astringent and bitter.— Patricia Gadsby
2 or cacao tree : a tree having small yellowish flowers followed by fleshy pods from which cacao is obtained Chocolate starts as the seeds in the fruits of the cacao tree, a tropical plant that produces flowers and fruit not at the tips of branches but on the trunk.— Kenneth Chang The cacao tree is native to the tropical countries of South America, but now grows in other parts of the world, notably Africa, the West Indies, and Central America.— Joanna Morris

Illustration of cacao

Illustration of cacao

cacao 2

Examples of cacao in a Sentence

a farmer who grows cacao
Recent Examples on the Web Guittard’s semi-sweet chips are a lovely exception, with 46 percent cacao and a subtle vanilla kick to them. Sunset Magazine, "The 99 Pantry Items We Can’t Live Without, from the Ultimate Olive Oil to Heirloom Turmeric," 25 Feb. 2020 Interestingly, cacao has always grown in a similar climate, and despite our modern day tendency to see them as inverses, vanilla was and continues to be a crucial part of making chocolate. Lior Lev Sercarz, Saveur, "How Vanilla Became the World’s Favorite Flavor," 3 Oct. 2016 Sun & Swell Foods has crisps made from cashews, sweet potato and flax, and cookies from dates, cashews, oats and cacao. Kavita Daswani, Los Angeles Times, "18 healthy (but still delicious) snacks you can get delivered to your door," 7 Apr. 2020 Plans include strengthening security forces and helping farmers secure land titles and substitute coca — the raw material for cocaine — with licit crops like cacao. Joshua Goodman,, "Warren Buffett’s son aims to help Colombia kick cocaine curse," 15 Feb. 2020 Camu camu, cacao, açai, and Amazonian white clay — all of which have become staples in our everyday skin, hair, and makeup routines — are sourced from the largest rainforest in the world: the Amazon. Kat Suico, Allure, "5 Brazilian Beauty Brands That Give Back to the Amazon," 28 Apr. 2020 Kahkow The Rizek family has growing cacao in the Dominican Republic since 1905. Melissa Clark, New York Times, "Melissa Clark’s Favorite Bean-to-Bar Chocolates," 11 Feb. 2020 Barrera and Gutiérrez traveled to Mexico to learn how cacao is harvested, fermented, roasted and turned into soft patties that become solidified once dry. Elaine Ayala,, "Ayala: Passing down culture and traditions one chocolate at a time," 13 Feb. 2020 Although the cultures shared staples such as maize, the luxury goods prized in Teotihuacan, such as jade, cacao, and brightly colored quetzal feathers, all came from the tropical jungles of the Maya lowlands. Lizzie Wade, Science | AAAS, "‘Astounding new finds’ suggest ancient empire may be hiding in plain sight," 27 Feb. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'cacao.' 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 cacao

1555, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for cacao

Spanish, from Nahuatl cacahuatl

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Time Traveler for cacao

Time Traveler

The first known use of cacao was in 1555

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Statistics for cacao

Last Updated

2 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Cacao.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for cacao


How to pronounce cacao (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of cacao

: the dried seeds of a tropical tree that are used to make cocoa and chocolate


ca·​cao | \ kə-ˈkau̇ How to pronounce cacao (audio) , kə-ˈkā-ō \
plural cacaos

Kids Definition of cacao

: a South American tree with fleshy yellow pods that contain fatty seeds from which chocolate is made


ca·​cao | \ kə-ˈkau̇ How to pronounce cacao (audio) , kə-ˈkā-(ˌ)ō How to pronounce cacao (audio) \
plural cacaos

Medical Definition of cacao

1 : the dried partly fermented fatty seeds of a South American evergreen tree (Theobroma cacao of the family Sterculiaceae) that are used in making cocoa, chocolate, and cocoa butter

called also cacao bean, cocoa bean

2 : a tree having small yellowish flowers followed by fleshy pods with many seeds that bear cacao

called also chocolate tree

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More from Merriam-Webster on cacao

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with cacao

Spanish Central: Translation of cacao

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

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