Definition for COCH'I-NEAL

COCH'I-NEAL, n. [Sp. cochinilla, a wood-louse, and an insect used in dyeing; It. cocciniglia; Fr. cochenille; from the Gr. κοκκος, as the cochineal was formerly supposed to be the grain or seed of a plant, and this word was formerly defined to be the grain of the Ilex glandifera. See Gregoir's Armoric Dictionary.]

An insect, the Coccus cacti, a native of the warmer climates of America, particularly of Oaxaca, in Mexico. It is found on a plant milled Nopal, or Indian fig-tree. The female, which alone is valued for its color, is ill-shaped, tardy, and stupid; the male is small, slender, and active. It is of the size of a tick. At a suitable time, these insects are gathered and put in a pot, where they are confined for some time, and then killed by the application of heat. These insects thus killed form a mass or drug, which is the proper cochineal of the shops. It is used in giving red colors, especially crimson and scarlet, and for making carmine. It has been used in medicine, as a cardiac, sudorific, alexipharmic, and febrifuge; but is now used only to give a color to tinctures, &c. – Encyc.

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