Tapioca is a starch extracted from Manihot esculenta. This species, native to the Amazon, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, and most of the West Indies, is now cultivated worldwide and has many names, including cassava, manioc, aipim, bitter-cassava, boba,mandioca, macaxeira, manioca, tapioca plant, yuca ˈjuːka) (not to be confused with yucca).
In India, the term "Tapioca" is used to represent the root of the Cassava, rather than the starch. The name tapioca is derived from the word tipi'óka, the name for this starch in Tupí. This Tupí word refers to the process by which the starch is made edible. However, as the word moved out of Brazil it came to refer to similar preparations made with other esculents. Tapioca is a staple food in some regions and is used worldwide as a thickening agent.
Tapioca is gluten-free, and almost completely protein-free. In Britain, the word tapioca often refers to a milk pudding thickened with arrowroot.