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

Examples of cairn in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Some parkgoers have been stacking up large rock towers, called cairns, which NPS officials say go against Leave No Trace ethics meant to reduce humans’ effects on the environment. Ryan Fonseca, Los Angeles Times, 20 July 2023 In treeless areas, stacked rocks known as cairns often serve as trail markers. Mike Brehm, USA TODAY, 3 Aug. 2023 Each park differs on how cairns are used but moving them can mislead visitors who are hiking on the trails. Kate Perez, USA TODAY, 13 July 2023 These new residents first received a sign that the property was home to something special in the 1930s, when a medicine wheel, a healing landmark consisting of a central stone cairn and an outer ring of rocks, as well as multiple smaller cairns, was rediscovered. Diane Selkirk, Smithsonian Magazine, 24 Nov. 2021 The hike starts at the OHV trailhead with a short walk on Forest Road 9845A. At the bottom of a rise at a green gate, the road bends left and joins the Lime Kiln Trail that’s marked by basket cairns (rock piles wired into pillars). Mare Czinar, The Arizona Republic, 16 June 2023 Finding 4,000-Year-Old Traces of Plague Researchers at the Francis Crick Institute in London took skeletal samples from two funeral sites in England – a mass burial in Somerset and a ring cairn monument in Cumbria. Matt Hrodey, Discover Magazine, 30 May 2023 Plans call for 17 panels, a 6-inch tile ribbon and two cairns to decorate the El Portal pedestrian railroad undercrossing, which opened last year. Barbara Henry, San Diego Union-Tribune, 11 May 2023 The other mural is more natural and features a portion of a tree trunk and a cairn on top of a small boulder. Steve Annear,, 2 Mar. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'cairn.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined above

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

Dictionary Entries Near cairn

Cite this Entry

“Cairn.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Oct. 2023.

Kids Definition


ˈka(ə)rn How to pronounce cairn (audio)
: a heap of stones piled up as a landmark or as a memorial

More from Merriam-Webster on cairn

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