\ˈkern \

Definition of cairn 

: a heap of stones piled up as a memorial or as a landmark

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from cairn

cairned \ ˈkernd \ adjective

Examples of cairn in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

The cairn would be a series of granite river boulders, and with the aluminum butterfly would stand 12 feet tall. Lynn Horsley, kansascity, "JoCo public art project brings out everyone's inner critic. So will it fly? | The Kansas City Star," 4 May 2018 The city has budgeted $100,000 for the cairn, or stack of rocks that form a trail marker, next to a caterpillar. Lynn Horsley, kansascity, "JoCo public art project brings out everyone's inner critic. So will it fly? | The Kansas City Star," 4 May 2018 The 26 breeds represented range from retrievers and rottweilers to terriers (Scottish, cairn and Jack Russell), pugs and Pomeranians. Tony Bravo, San Francisco Chronicle, "Style Radar: Farm-focused fashion, pooch pins and Rodarte," 15 Feb. 2018 The stone cairn is decorated with a machine gun belt, a large-caliber bullet and a Russian army helmet. Owen Matthews, Newsweek, "Putin’s Secret Armies Waged War in Syria—Where Will They Fight Next?," 17 Jan. 2018 Nolan found rock cairns at spots where Leffingwell photographed Okpilak Glacier in the Brooks Range in 1907. Ned Rozell, Alaska Dispatch News, "Ernest Leffingwell, pioneering Arctic scientist with a fan club," 10 Sep. 2014 Many of the people who stop to marvel liken his figures to cairns, piles of rock that have turned up around the world since prehistoric times to mark pathways, honor deities or commemorate the dead. Patrick Farrell, New York Times, "A Mystery Solved: Why the ‘Sisyphus Stones’ Rise and Tumble," 14 Sep. 2017 The lengthening shadows magnified a series of lumps on the sidewalk, like cairns marking a mountain trail. Anne Barnard, New York Times, "A Legacy of Lebanon’s War: ‘Land Mines’ Left by Beirut’s Dogs," 23 Oct. 2017 The cairns contain a number of large stones with intricate carvings representing spirals, diamonds and other seemingly abstract shapes. Christopher Ingraham, sacbee, "Eclipse craze nothing new? 5,000-year-old stone carving depicts one.," 18 Aug. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'cairn.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of cairn

15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for cairn

Middle English (Scots) carne, from Scottish Gaelic carn; akin to Old Irish & Welsh carn cairn

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about cairn

Statistics for cairn

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for cairn

The first known use of cairn was in the 15th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for cairn



English Language Learners Definition of cairn

: a pile of stones that marks a place (such as the place where someone is buried or a battle took place) or that shows the direction of a trail

More from Merriam-Webster on cairn

See words that rhyme with cairn Encyclopedia article about cairn

Comments on cairn

What made you want to look up cairn? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


obstinately defiant of authority

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Autumn Words of the Day 2018

  • a-top-down-image-of-road-through-an-autumn-forest
  • Which is a synonym of fugacious?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!