[noh-puh l, noh-pahl, -pal]
  1. any of several cacti of the genus Nopalea, resembling the prickly pear.
  2. the fruit of such a cactus, or of a similar cactus, as the prickly pear.

Origin of nopal

1720–30; < Mexican Spanish < Nahuatl nohpalli Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for nopal

Historical Examples of nopal

  • A species, of cactus—the nopal—produces the tuna or Indian fig.

    The Western World

    W.H.G. Kingston

  • Within a short distance of the hut there were some nopal cactus-plants.

  • Land of the nopal and maguey—home of Moctezuma and Malinché!

    The War Trail

    Mayne Reid

  • The deep reds of the Nopal Coccus have furnished the purple of kings.

    The Insect

    Jules Michelet

  • "We must hurry to get in the jacal before father," said Nopal, suddenly.

    History of California

    Helen Elliott Bandini

British Dictionary definitions for nopal


  1. any of various cactuses of the genus Nopalea, esp the red-flowered N. cochinellifera, which is a host plant of the cochineal insect
  2. a cactus, Opuntia lindheimeri, having yellow flowers and purple fruitsSee also prickly pear

Word Origin for nopal

C18: from Spanish, from Nahuatl nopálli cactus
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 nopal

Mexican cactus, from American Spanish, from Nahuatl nopalli.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper