Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A tendril-bearing Old World vine (Citrullus colocynthis) bearing yellowish, green-mottled fruits the size of small lemons.
  • n. The fruit of this plant, whose dried, bitter, spongy pulp is a very strong laxative.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A viny plant, Citrullus colocynthis, native to the Mediterranean Basin and Asia. It produces a lemon-sized, yellowish, green-mottled, spongy, and extremely bitter fruit, a powerful hepatic stimulant and hydragogue cathartic used as a strong laxative.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The light spongy pulp of the fruit of the bitter cucumber (Citrullus colocynthis, or Cucumis colocynthis), an Asiatic plant allied to the watermelon; coloquintida. It comes in white balls, is intensely bitter, and a powerful cathartic. Called also bitter apple, bitter cucumber, bitter gourd.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. The bitter apple, the fruit of a cucurbitaceous plant, Citrullus Colocynthis, indigenous in the warmer parts of Asia, but now widely cultivated on account of its medicinal properties.

Etymologies

Latin colocynthis, from Greek kolokunthis, from kolokunthē, round gourd.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
See colocynthis (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • The dried pulp of its unripe, full-grown fruit constitutes the drug colocynth, which is used as a cathartic.

    Chapter 10

  • I applied my usual remedies for it, which consisted of colocynth and quinine; but experience has shown me that an excessive use of the same cathartic weakens its effect, and that it would be well for travellers to take with them different medicines to cause proper action in the liver, such as colocynth, calomel, resin of jalap, Epsom salts; and that no quinine should be taken until such medicines shall have prepared the system for its reception.

    How I Found Livingstone

  • The hero of the Romance “Al – Dalhamah” is described as a bitter gourd (colocynth), a viper, a calamity.

    The Book of The Thousand Nights And A Night

  • “I learned wisdom from the blind who make sure of things by touching them” (as did St. Thomas); and when he ate the colocynth offered by his owner,

    The Book of The Thousand Nights And A Night

  • It is impossible to make any description, either of the most pleasant or of the most unpleasant, of the raspberry or of colocynth.

    The physiology of taste; or Transcendental gastronomy. Illustrated by anecdotes of distinguished artists and statesmen of both continents by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin. Translated from the last Paris edition by Fayette Robinson.

  • My enfeebled stomach, harrowed and irritated with medicinal compounds, with ipecac, colocynth, tartar-emetic, quinine, and such things, protested against the coarse food.

    How I Found Livingstone

  • The ground was luxuriant with colocynth, whose runners and fruits looked festive in the early light.

    Seven Pillars of Wisdom

  • On the way we were shown pits of coarse sulphur and alum mixed with sand; in the low lands senna and colocynth were growing wild.

    First footsteps in East Africa

  • For a certain local disease, they use senna or colocynth, anoint the body with sulphur boiled in ghee, and expose it to the sun, or they leave the patient all night in the dew; — abstinence and perspiration generally effect a cure.

    First footsteps in East Africa

  • Sometimes the centre is occupied by an islet of torn trees and stones rolled in heaps, supporting a clump of thick jujube or tall acacia, whilst the lower parts of the beds are overgrown with long lines of lively green colocynth. 29 Here are usually the wells, surrounded by heaps of thorns, from which the leaves have been browsed off, and dwarf sticks that support the water-hide.

    First footsteps in East Africa

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Comments

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  • "'...parenthetically I may say that I gave him such a dose, such a comfortable dose, the next day, when he was to take physic: I did not scruple to add two scruples of colocynth to his black draught, ha, ha, ha! Colocynth for ever, and the strong watery gripes. Are you not amused, my dear sir?'"
    --Patrick O'Brian, Treason's Harbour, 280

    A Sea of Words: The violently cathartic pulp of a gourd, Citrullus colocynthus. (152)

    February 19, 2008