[koch-uh-neel, koh-chuh-, koch-uh-neel, koh-chuh-]
a red dye prepared from the dried bodies of the females of the cochineal insect, Dactylopius coccus, which lives on cactuses of Mexico, Central America, and other warm regions.

1575–85; < Middle French cochinille < Spanish cochinilla the insect; of obscure origin; perhaps to be identified with Spanish cochinilla sow bug (assuming a likeness between it and the female cochineal insect), diminutive of cochina sow, but chronology is doubtful Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
cochineal (ˌkɒtʃɪˈniːl, ˈkɒtʃɪˌniːl)
1.  Also called: cochineal insect a Mexican homopterous insect, Dactylopius coccus, that feeds on cacti
2.  a crimson substance obtained from the crushed bodies of these insects, used for colouring food and for dyeing
3.  a.  the colour of this dye
 b.  (as adjective): cochineal shoes
[C16: from Old Spanish cochinilla, from Latin coccineus scarlet-coloured, from coccum cochineal kermes, from Greek kokkos kermes berry]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Word Origin & History

1580s, from Fr. cochenille, from Sp. cochinilla "wood louse," or It. cocciniglia, from Mod.L. coccinum "scarlet robe," coccineus "scarlet-colored," from coccum "scarlet," lit. "grain, berry." Coccum is cognate with Gk. kokkos, which had the same senses. The crushed insect dye was once wrongly supposed
to be from the grain or berry of a plant. The insect lives on plants in Mexico and Central America. Aztecs and other Mexican Indians used it as a dyestuff; it first is mentioned in Europe in 1523 in Sp. correspondence to Hernán Cortés in Mexico. Specimens were brought to Spain in the 1520s, and cloth merchants in Antwerp were buying cochineal in insect and powdered form in Spain by the 1540s. Replaced the kermes insect as a source of red dye in Europe. So important was this source of scarlet dye that derivatives of the name for it have displaced the original word for "red" in many languages, e.g. Welsh coch, Mod.Gk. kokkinos. Cf. also crimson, vermilion.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Medical Dictionary

cochineal coch·i·neal (kŏch'ə-nēl', kŏch'ə-nēl', kō'chə-nēl', kō'chə-nēl')
A red dye made of dried, pulverized female cochineal insects and used as a biological stain and as an indicator in acid-base titrations.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Encyclopedia Britannica


red dyestuff consisting of the dried, pulverized bodies of certain female scale insects, Dactylopius coccus, of the Coccidae family, cactus-eating insects native to tropical and subtropical America. Cochineal is used to produce scarlet, crimson, orange, and other tints and to prepare pigments such as lake and carmine (qq.v.). The dye was introduced into Europe from Mexico, where it had been used long before the coming of the Spaniards

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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Example sentences
Emerald and cochineal the flight of days, their cardamom-infused evanescence.
Cochineal insects give a red or pink coloring to foods, lipsticks, and beverages.
Cochineal is primarily used as a food colouring and for cosmetics.
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