cap·​si·​cum | \ ˈkap-si-kəm How to pronounce capsicum (audio) \

Definition of capsicum

1a : any of a genus (Capsicum) of tropical American herbs and shrubs of the nightshade family widely cultivated for their many-seeded usually fleshy-walled berries

called also pepper

2 : an oleoresin derived from the fruit of some capsicums that contains capsaicin and related compounds and is used medicinally especially as a topical pain reliever

Examples of capsicum in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Police must reasonably believe the demonstrator is wearing the face covering primarily to conceal one’s identity or as protection against crowd-controlling substances such as capsicum spray., "“We must save Hong Kong, the present Hong Kong and the future Hong Kong,” she said. “We must stop the violence ... we can’t just leave the situation to get worse and worse.”," 5 Oct. 2019 Orange-red yolks can also be attained by increasing a chicken's beta-carotene consumption, or even feeding it capsicum or marigold petals. CBS News, "Recipes from pasta master Evan Funke," 28 Sep. 2019 Often grouped with tear gas is Agent OC (oleoresin capsicum), or pepper spray, or its synthetic form known as PAVA spray, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Korin Miller, SELF, "This Is Exactly How Tear Gas Affects Your Body," 26 Nov. 2018 Consumer Reports also recommends marking an area with mouse-deterrent tape that’s infused with capsicum, the substance that makes peppers spicy. Gary Gastelu, Fox News, "Paul Ryan says woodchucks 'ate' his SUV -- and he's not alone," 13 July 2018 Yes, the beer does include oleoresin capsicum, the food-grade chili oil and primary ingredient in Mace pepper spray. Matt Allyn, Popular Mechanics, "A Pepper Spray Beer That Won't Assault Your Senses," 2 Feb. 2018 Officers ordered inmates to lie on the ground and sprayed oleoresin capsicum, Edge said, commonly known as pepper spray. Laurel Andrews, Anchorage Daily News, "Prisoners riot at Seward maximum-security prison," 19 Jan. 2018 According to plastic surgeon Lara Devgan, M.D., M.P.H., many plumping lip glosses contain mild irritants such as capsicum (an ingredient found in chili peppers), cinnamon, or menthol. Sophie Wirt, SELF, "This Is What Lip-Plumping Glosses Are Actually Doing to Your Lips," 11 Dec. 2017 The rest of the time, pepper spray — technically known as oleoresin capsicum, or OC — was used in the general population areas of the prison. Patrick Marley, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Teen inmate at Wisconsin's Lincoln Hills blasted with pepper spray 12 times in 6 months," 1 Sep. 2017

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

1588, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for capsicum

borrowed from New Latin (Linnaeus), earlier, a name for various species of Piper, borrowed from Middle Greek kapsikón, of uncertain origin

Note: The name capsicum was introduced into Renaissance botany by the French physician and botanist Jean Ruel, who, in De medicamentorum compositione (Paris, 1539; Basel, 1540), translated Books 5 and 6 of De methodo medendi/Theurapeutikḕ méthodos by the Byzantine physician Johannes Actuarius/Ioannes Aktuarios (ca. 1275-ca. 1328). Actuarius included kapsikón in a pharmaceutical recipe among other plants ("…item sitezium indicum, capsicum, piper longum, tenue cinamomum") apparently similar in action to ginger and galanga, but seems to indicate nothing further about it. (The Greek text of these two books has never been published.) Earlier, in his botanical and pharmaceutical encyclopedia De natura stirpium libri tres (Paris: Simon de Collines, 1536), p. 380, Jean Ruel alludes to the capsicon of Actuarius as a synonym for cardamom, so called because "…the seeds are arranged in a row, enclosed in a kind of case, as if they are collected in a capsa" ("…semina in ordinem digesta, quibusdam thecis inuoluentibus, quasi capsis congerantur"). This notion that capsicum has something to do with Latin capsa, "case, receptacle," is repeated by many subsequent authors. The botanist Gaspard Bauhin employs capsicum as a synonym for piper, "pepper" (Phytopinax, seu enumeratio plantarum, Basel, 1596, pp. 155-56), which eventually gives rise to the Linnaean usage; he proffers a completely different etymology, from Greek káptein "to gulp down, swallow up": "Kapsikón [Greek letters] Actuario, fortè quod semen comestum mordeat, à káptō [Greek letters] mordeo" ("Kapsikón in Actuarius, perhaps because the seed once eaten causes a sting, from káptō I bite"). Neither Ruel's nor Bauhin's etymologies make sense derivationally, so the origin—as well as the identity—of Actuarius' kapsikón remain obscure, at least until further examination of the original Greek text.

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Time Traveler for capsicum

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The first known use of capsicum was in 1588

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Last Updated

23 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Capsicum.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 17 January 2020.

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More Definitions for capsicum


cap·​si·​cum | \ ˈkap-si-kəm How to pronounce capsicum (audio) \

Medical Definition of capsicum

1 capitalized : a genus of tropical herbs and shrubs of the nightshade family (Solanaceae) widely cultivated for their many-seeded usually fleshy-walled berries
2 : any plant of the genus Capsicum

called also pepper

3 : the dried ripe fruit of some capsicums (as C. frutescens) used as a gastric and intestinal stimulant

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