can·​ni·​bal·​ism | \ ˈka-nə-bə-ˌli-zəm How to pronounce cannibalism (audio) \

Definition of cannibalism

1 : the usually ritualistic eating of human flesh by a human being
2 : the eating of the flesh of an animal by another animal of the same kind
3 : an act of cannibalizing something

Other Words from cannibalism

cannibalistic \ ˌka-​nə-​bə-​ˈli-​stik How to pronounce cannibalism (audio) \ adjective

Examples of cannibalism in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Previously, it was thought that the first occurrences of cannibalism happened approximately 450 million years ago in the Ordovician period. Daisy Hernandez, Popular Mechanics, 13 Apr. 2022 In the second, Noa asks Steve to dance with her after their cannibalism dinner, with both characters kissing and moving in sync as Steve’s bedroom fate is teased. Abbey White, The Hollywood Reporter, 21 Mar. 2022 Then there is the crime beyond all crimes: cannibalism. New York Times, 18 Mar. 2022 The evening included a pre-screening reception because event producers worried guests wouldn’t want to eat after the showing because of the movie’s cannibalism storyline. Marc Malkin, Variety, 4 Mar. 2022 Sweatshirt emerged fully formed from the internet like Athena from Zeus, if Athena were a teenager rapping about serial murder and cannibalism. New York Times, 14 Mar. 2022 In addition to cannibalism, the film features rape, the real-life killing of animals, and assorted other unpleasantness. Leah Greenblatt,, 14 Mar. 2022 What ensued was one of those classic tales of Arctic survival involving misery, hunger, accidents, deaths and rumors of cannibalism. David James, Anchorage Daily News, 12 Mar. 2022 Bart Nickerson: On the one hand one, there's the idea of cannibalism. Nojan Aminosharei, Harper's BAZAAR, 17 Jan. 2022 See More

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

First Known Use of cannibalism

1634, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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The first known use of cannibalism was in 1634

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Last Updated

8 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Cannibalism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for cannibalism


can·​ni·​bal·​ism | \ -bə-ˌliz-əm How to pronounce cannibalism (audio) \

Medical Definition of cannibalism

1 : the usually ritualistic eating of human flesh by a human being
2 : the eating of the flesh or the eggs of any animal by its own kind
3 : the pecking and tearing of the live flesh of its own members in a domestic poultry flock — compare pecking order
4 : oral sadism

More from Merriam-Webster on cannibalism

Nglish: Translation of cannibalism for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of cannibalism for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about cannibalism


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