Definition of nopal in English:


Syllabification: no·pal
Pronunciation: /ˈnōpəl, nōˈpäl

noun (plural nopales /-ˈpäles/)

1A cactus that is a major food plant of the bugs from which cochineal is obtained.
  • Genus Nopalea, family Cactaceae: several species, in particular N. cochinellifera
More example sentences
  • The Aztecs cultivated cochineal, a tiny insect that lived on the native nopal cactus and produced a red dye that was the brightest and strongest color Europe had ever seen.
  • Cochineal - a red dye made from insects harvested from the nopal cactus - was the most lucrative export item after silver that Spain extracted from Mexico during the colonial period.
1.1 (nopales) The edible fleshy pads of the nopal cactus, used as a staple in Mexican cuisine.
More example sentences
  • The plant produces flat, round pads (sometimes called nopales or nopalitos), which in some locales are sold in grocery stores for consumption.
  • Canned nopales (plain, or in brine or a vinegar pickle) are available.
  • There are stacks of mangoes and piles of nopales, baskets of dried chiles and vats of mole paste.
1.2The prickly pear cactus, when used in food supplements and herbal preparations.
More example sentences
  • Research in animals shows it can be effective, but a human study had to use high doses of nopal capsules to produce results.


mid 18th century: via French and Spanish from Nahuatl nopalli 'cactus'.

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