compiled by Lin Yangchen




drawing by Alfred Thomas Agate

coconut armour a body armour made from braided coconut fibre and worn by 19th-century warriors in Kiribati to protect against their opponents' shark teeth-studded wooden spears.

coconut bomb a hollowed-out coconut stuffed with a hand grenade and picric acid and sealed with wax. The Japanese hurled them at US troops during General MacArthur’s invasion of Leyte in 1944. The coconuts reportedly made a very loud noise but caused little damage. On a related note, falling coconuts are recognized as a categorical cause of death.

coconut candy (kẹo dừa) a caramelized Vietnamese confectionery made from coconut milk, malt syrup and sugar. Each family-owned factory has its own secret recipe.


coconut catching (hứng dừa) the title of a naughty and sensual woodcut print of a girl holding up her skirt to catch coconuts, created in olden times by an unknown folk artist from the village of Đông Hồ in Vietnam.

coconut charcoal pyrolyzed coconut shell for domestic applications such as barbecues and hookah smoking, and as industrial fuel for metalworking and power stations. Also used to make activated charcoal.


Dictionnaire D'Histoire Naturelle (1849)

coconut crab (Birgus latro) the largest terrestrial invertebrate in the world. A hermit crab that climbs coconut trees and travels on floating coconuts.

coconut, desiccated coconut meat imported into England, shredded and dried at about 70° C to less than 2.5% H2O.

coconut fibre lignified cellulose fibres used in door mats, brushes, car parts and gardening.

coconut gel (nata de coco) coconut water fermented by Komagataeibacter xylinus. Invented by Philippine chemist Teodula Kalaw in 1949.

coconut honey a concoction by Indonesian researchers who added sugar to skimmed coconut oil (Koapaha & Langi 2014).

coconutID an app that tells you when and where your Apple device was made.

coconut inflorescence flower stalk used at Malay weddings to symbolize prosperity and fecundity and in the traditional dance ulek mayang in Trengganu to chase away spirits. Also produces a sap for making sugar and health drinks.

coconut map Micronesian seafarers navigated the ocean using stick charts made of coconut ribs fastened with coconut fibre, showing the directions of the swells (Gatty 1958). Islands were marked on the charts using seashells.

coconut meat edible endosperm, served with wasabi on the Pacific island of Guam.

coconut milk key ingredient in the nasi lemak dress of Miss Universe Malaysia. In Malay, the name of AirAsia’s inflight restaurant (Santan).

coconut milk rice paper a Vietnamese culinary paper made from coconut milk, pandan leaves, flour, salt, sugar and water.

coconut mite (Aceria guerreronis) a microscopic pest that devastates coconut plantations. A single nut can be infested by thousands of mites. Scientists have discovered that mites on different continents have different body geometry (Navia et al. 2009).


photo: Nick Hobgood  | Creative Commons license

coconut octopus (Amphioctopus marginatus) a species of octopus that uses coconut shells as a hideout.

coconut oil a tropical oil rich in saturated fatty acids, used to light street lamps in 19th-century Singapore and pop popcorn for cinemas. In survival situations it can repel insects, prevent sunburn, soothe blisters and be mixed with wood ash as a soap substitute (Wiseman 2014).

coconut paper painting (tranh giấy dừa) an art form invented by Vietnamese artist Le Thanh Ha. A design is transferred from a decal onto wet pulp made from coconut fibre and dried in the sun.

coconut pearl (batu kelapa) calcified haustorium in a hermetically sealed coconut. Used in Sarawak as a sacred charm in business dealings and court cases and to protect the wearer from sickness and weapons including bullets (Wong 1984).

coconut rhinoceros beetle (Oryctes rhinoceros ) a six-legged monster that attacks coconut trees at night, cutting up leaves and making holes in the crown.

coconut smashing a Thaipusam ritual to destroy one’s ego and pour away the juice of selfishness that blocks one’s attainment of purity. Also performed in an obscure Sikh martial art called gatka.

coconut sport (macapuno) abnormally developed endosperm with a translucent jelly-like consistency. Believed to be an expression of a recessive gene in homozygous condition.

coconut sprout spongy crunchy edible cotyledon of a germinating coconut.

coconut stick insect (Graeffea crouanii ) a Pacific island pest that eats the fronds leaving bare midribs.

coconut throwing a way of learning shot put and discus, practised by Cook Islands athlete Tereapii Tapoki when she was young.

coconut timber a hardwood alternative obtained from coconut trunks that superficially resembles mahogany. Contains more ash and silica than conventional timbers.


a rare branched coconut tree (see Furtado 1924)

coconut tree a gravity-defying, typhoon-proof plant, said to have been created by Sage Vishwamitra to prevent King Trishanku from hitting the ground after being thrown out of heaven.

coconut vinegar a fermentation product of 17 species of yeast and 7 genera of bacteria (Atputharajah et al. 1986). Kills Gardnerella vaginalis, a bacteria that causes genital infections in women (Nisha & Antony 2017). Mixed with chilli, ginger, garlic and onion as condiments (pinakurat, sinamak) for grilled and fried food in the Philippines.


coconut water a sweet liquid rich in vitamins, minerals and amino acids. Often served with the top of the nut hacked off with a machete or cleaver in a polyhedral series of cuts. Used by Cambodian nurses as a saline substitute during the Khmer Rouge period. Also used to kill old people in the traditional Indian practice of thalaikoothal.


coconut wine an alcoholic beverage of self-fermented coconut sap, sometimes drunk communally through bamboo straws and used in animistic rituals. May be further distilled into liquor.

coconut worm (đuông dừa) a Mekong delta delicacy of thumb-sized palm weevil larvae Rhynchophorus ferrugineus grilled, deep fried or seasoned alive with chilli and fish sauce.

coconut yoghurt coconut milk with bacteria.


back to table of contents
Powered by SmugMug Owner Log In