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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