• synonyms


[kak-tuh s]
noun, plural cac·ti [kak-tahy] /ˈkæk taɪ/, cac·tus·es, cac·tus.
  1. any of numerous succulent plants of the family Cactaceae, of warm, arid regions of the New World, having fleshy, leafless, usually spiny stems, and typically having solitary, showy flowers.
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Origin of cactus

1600–10; < Latin < Greek káktos cardoon
Related formscac·tus·like, cac·toid, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for cacti

Historical Examples

  • The cacti arose higher, and you could say that they grew on the head of one another.

    Sielanka: An Idyll

    Henryk Sienkiewicz

  • Nopalry: a plantation of cacti for raising cochineal insects.

  • Leaving the path to our left, we made our way among the cacti.

  • All present knew the meaning of this, and regarded the cacti with a murmur of satisfaction.

  • She fell, and cursed aloud as she felt the sting of cacti spines in her palm.

    The Lady Doc

    Caroline Lockhart

British Dictionary definitions for cacti


noun plural -tuses or -ti (-taɪ)
  1. any spiny succulent plant of the family Cactaceae of the arid regions of America. Cactuses have swollen tough stems, leaves reduced to spines or scales, and often large brightly coloured flowers
  2. cactus dahlia a double-flowered variety of dahlia
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Derived Formscactaceous (kækˈteɪʃəs), adjective

Word Origin

C17: from Latin: prickly plant, from Greek kaktos cardoon
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for cacti



c.1600, from Latin cactus "cardoon," from Greek kaktos, name of a type of prickly plant of Sicily (the Spanish artichoke), perhaps of pre-Hellenic origin. Modern meaning is 18c., because Linnaeus gave the name to a group of plants he thought were related to this but are not.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper