Coch"i*neal , [Sp. cochinilla, dim. from L. coccineus, coccinus, scarlet, fr. coccum the kermes berry, G. berry, especially the kermes insect, used to dye scarlet, as the cohineal was formerly supposed to be the grain or seed of a plant, and this word was formerly defined to be the grain of the Quercus coccifera; but cf. also Sp. cochinilla wood louse, dim. of cochina sow, akin to F. cochon pig.]
A dyestuff consisting of the dried bodies of females of the Coccus cacti, an insect native in Mexico, Central America, etc., and found on several species of cactus, esp. Opuntia cochinellifera.
⇒ These insects are gathered from the plant, killed by the application of heat, and exposed to the sun to dry. When dried they resemble small, rough berries or seeds, of a brown or purple color, and form the cochineal of the shops, which is used for making carmine, and also as a red dye.
⇒ Cochineal contains as its essential coloring matter carminic acid, a purple red amorphous substance which yields carmine red.
© Webster 1913.