co·​chi·​neal ˈkä-chə-ˌnēl How to pronounce cochineal (audio)
: a red dye consisting of the dried bodies of female cochineal insects

Examples of cochineal in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Pluck a tiny cochineal from a prickly pear cactus: The insect produces a bright-red dye that was prized in Europe for two centuries. Elisabeth Malkin, New York Times, 23 Nov. 2023 But blush prevailed again during the Renaissance, with concoctions of cochineal, sandalwood, or cinnabar mixed with grease or wax. Linda Wells, Town & Country, 16 Apr. 2021 The dye used by the Aztecs to produce this incredible tone of red was obtained from a tiny insect, the cochineal, that lives on cactus plants (various species belonging to the genus Opuntia, the prickly pear). Longreads, 23 Mar. 2021 The paintings are by Metsu and Ter Borch, the compositions and concepts subtly varied, yet each includes an elegant young woman in a shimmering white silk skirt and a cochineal-red bodice. Karen Wilkin, WSJ, 23 Oct. 2017 Starbucks was using what is called a cochineal dye, which is a natural dye derived from insects, to color its strawberry Frappuccinos. Joe Pinsker, The Atlantic, 8 May 2017

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'cochineal.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle French & Spanish; Middle French cochenille, from Old Spanish cochinilla cochineal insect

First Known Use

1582, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of cochineal was in 1582

Dictionary Entries Near cochineal

Cite this Entry

“Cochineal.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


co·​chi·​neal ˈkäch-ə-ˌnēl How to pronounce cochineal (audio)
: a red dye consisting of the dried bodies of female cochineal insects

Medical Definition


co·​chi·​neal ˈkäch-ə-ˌnēl, ˈkō-chə- How to pronounce cochineal (audio)
: a red dye consisting of the dried bodies of female cochineal insects used especially as a biological stain and as an indicator

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