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

  • n. Any of various cacti of the genera Nopalea or Opuntia, including the prickly pear and similar species.
  • n. The fleshy, oval, edible pad of such a cactus.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A prickly pear cactus from the genus Opuntia, especially Opuntia cochinellifera.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A cactaceous plant (Nopalea cochinellifera), originally Mexican, on which the cochineal insect feeds, and from which it is collected. The name is sometimes given to other species of Cactaceæ.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. One of several cactaceous plants which support the cochineal-insect. See cochineal, Nopalea, and Opuntia.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. cactus having yellow flowers and purple fruits
  • n. any of several cacti of the genus Nopalea resembling prickly pears


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

American Spanish, from Nahuatl nopalli.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Spanish nopal, from Nahuatl nopalli ("Opuntia cactus"). Compare nopales.



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  • "Even the most dedicated naturalists' observations were not always complete or correct. In the case of cochineal, the omissions and errors began with Fernandez de Oviedo himself. In his Historia natural (1526), he presented Europe with its first detailed description of the nopal cactus, but failed to mention cochineal at all. Nine years later, in his more extensive Historia general (1535), he described how he had once eaten the nopal's juicy fruit, only to have his urine turn blood-red soon afterward. 'I believed without a doubt that all the veins of my body had broken,' he wrote. He was greatly relieved when a more experienced friend explained that the fruit was harmless."

    Amy Butler Greenfield, A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire (New York: Harper Collins, 2005), 129.

    October 5, 2017