• synonyms


  1. a plant, Citrullus colocynthis, belonging to the gourd family, of the warmer parts of Asia, the Mediterranean region, etc., bearing a round, yellow or green fruit with a bitter pulp.
  2. the fruit of this plant.
  3. Pharmacology. the drug derived from the pulp of the unripe but full-grown fruit of this plant, used in medicine chiefly as a purgative.
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Origin of colocynth

1555–65; < Latin colocynthis < Greek kolokynthís, variant of kolókyntha bitter gourd, bitter cucumber
Also called bitter apple (for defs 1, 2).
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for colocynth

Historical Examples

  • Some colocynth is gathered here and there, and dried in the hollows of the rocks.

    Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, No. 462


  • Mixed with equal parts of colocynth it is applied to carbuncles.

  • Colocynth and Elaterium have also been proved to act specifically.

    The Action of Medicines in the System

    Frederick William Headland

  • Those to be preferred are aloes, colocynth,50 and podophyllin.

  • She then ate one-half a colocynth, which made her terribly sick, causing a bloody diarrhea.


    William J. Robinson

British Dictionary definitions for colocynth


  1. a cucurbitaceous climbing plant, Citrullus colocynthis, of the Mediterranean region and Asia, having bitter-tasting fruit
  2. the dried fruit pulp of this plant, used as a strong purgative
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German name: bitter apple

Word Origin

C17: from Latin colocynthis, from Greek kolokunthis, from kolokunthē gourd, of obscure origin
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