can·​ni·​bal·​ism | \ˈka-nə-bə-ˌli-zəm \

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

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Other Words from cannibalism

cannibalistic \ ˌka-​nə-​bə-​ˈlis-​tik \ adjective

Examples of cannibalism in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

One remote tribe, the Fore people of Papua New Guinea, experienced an epidemic of the disease in the 1950s by practicing a form of ritualistic cannibalism. Avery Thompson, Popular Mechanics, "A Man Contracted a Rare, Fatal Disease From Eating Squirrel Brains," 17 Oct. 2018 Someone who's interested in studying the rare cases of cannibalism throughout history, that's who—not just in modern humans but also in fossil remains from the Paleolithic era. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "Here are your 2018 Ig Nobel Prize winners," 13 Sep. 2018 One woman discussed discovering her father was into cannibalism. Trevor Fraser,, "Kevin Allison gets Risk-y in Orlando," 8 June 2018 Only five returned alive and rumors of cannibalism dogged them for the rest of their lives. Anchorage Daily News, "In ‘To the Ends of the Earth,’ an ambitious attempt to encompass era of polar exploration," 7 July 2018 But that argument is tough to reconcile with the fact that Facebook’s own internal guidelines ban so very many bad things, from cannibalism to infant abuse. Issie Lapowsky, WIRED, "Tusks, Horns, and Claws: The Fight to Dismantle the Facebook Animal Parts Bazaar," 5 June 2018 Raft of the Medusa JAY-Z steps briefly in front of Théodore Géricault’s extraordinary Raft of the Medusa (1818-1819) a painting based on the true events of a shipwreck involving sharks and cannibalism. Peter Mikelbank,, "Inside Beyoncé and JAY-Z's 'Apes—': A Guide to All the Art in the Epic Music Video," 20 June 2018 His trial involved testimony from witnesses who said that he or his soldiers killed civilians, raped women and engaged in cannibalism. Washington Post, "Two deputies fatally shot at restaurant," 20 Apr. 2018 Jabateh, 51, of East Lansdowne, fought against Taylor’s NPFL and was accused of committing or overseeing horrific acts of murder, rape, enslavement, and cannibalism. Jeremy Roebuck,, "Jurors picked for trial of Delco man accused of role in Liberia war crimes," 11 June 2018

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.

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First Known Use of cannibalism

1796, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Last Updated

18 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for cannibalism

The first known use of cannibalism was in 1796

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More Definitions for cannibalism


can·​ni·​bal·​ism | \-bə-ˌliz-əm \

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

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by force of circumstances

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