1 [mass noun] a scarlet dye used for colouring food, made from the crushed dried bodies of a female scale insect.
a dye similar to cochineal made from the oak kermes insect (see kermes).
2 (cochineal insect) the scale insect that is used for cochineal, native to Mexico and formerly cultivated on cacti.
Dactylopius coccus, family Dactylopiidae, suborder Homoptera
late 16th century: from French cochenille or Spanish cochinilla, from Latin coccinus 'scarlet', from Greek kokkos 'berry' (the insect bodies were mistaken for grains or berries). Compare with coccus, kermes
cochineal in other Oxford dictionaries
Definition of cochineal in the US English dictionary