Word of the Day


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a plant that grows in deserts and has thick stems and sharp points called spines

Origin and usage

Cactus comes from the Greek word ‘kaktos’, which was the name given to the cardoon, a species of spiked plant commonly found in Sicily. The usage we know today in English dates to 1769, when the word was first used to describe the green, leafless plants of the American desert.


The word cactus describes a type of desert plant that has thick, leafless stems covered in prickly spines or sharp spikes. Cactus plants are able to thrive in dry climates because they store water in their stems. Some large cactus varieties can store an impressive amount of water. A fully-grown saguaro cactus is able to hold as much as 200 gallons of water after a significant rainfall.

Cactus plants are a popular decorating trend, but they have additional benefits beyond adding some low-maintenance greenery to your home.

Edible cacti are a food staple in some parts of the world, particularly in Latin American countries, and word of their health benefits is spreading. Some cacti are rich in vitamins, calcium and fibre. Eating cacti can allegedly help lower cholesterol and blood sugar. They are also said to fight inflammation of brain cells and may even aid in weight loss. Preliminary testing on edible cacti has also shown that the plants contain antioxidants that may help slow or even block the growth of cancer cells.


“When I was a kid, I collected cactuses. I had hundreds of different kinds in my room. I was a weird child. Everyone was playing football, and I was collecting cactuses. I spent all my money on them. I had so many colours and shapes. I even gave them names.”
(Stjepan Hauser)

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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