car·​nal ˈkär-nᵊl How to pronounce carnal (audio)
: relating to or given to crude bodily pleasures and appetites
gluttony and other carnal activities
: marked by sexuality
carnal love
: bodily, corporeal
seen with carnal eyes
: temporal
carnal weapons
the superiority of the spiritual and eternal over the carnalH. O. Taylor
: worldly
a carnal mind
carnality noun
carnally adverb
Choose the Right Synonym for carnal

carnal, fleshly, sensual, animal mean having a relation to the body.

carnal may mean only this but more often connotes derogatorily an action or manifestation of a person's lower nature.

gave in to carnal desires

fleshly is less derogatory than carnal.

a saint who had experienced fleshly temptations

sensual may apply to any gratification of a bodily desire or pleasure but commonly implies sexual appetite with absence of the spiritual or intellectual.

fleshpots providing sensual delights

animal stresses the physical as distinguished from the rational nature of a person.

led a mindless animal existence

Examples of carnal in a Sentence

the preacher warned that those who were interested only in carnal pursuits would not see the kingdom of heaven a missionary who tends to the carnal needs of the people as well as to their spiritual concerns
Recent Examples on the Web Untangling this all will take a few bottles of wine and at least some renewal of their carnal knowledge, but mostly a whole lot of conversation — which Brizé and co-writer Marie Drucker write exquisitely, with as much truth in the characters’ pauses and dodges as in their most candid confessions. Guy Lodge, Variety, 8 Sep. 2023 Most of the rooms are cozy cabins, perfect for a carnal getaway. Gary Shteyngart, Condé Nast Traveler, 30 Aug. 2023 But Rustin’s characters aren’t grounded in concerns beyond their carnal ones, so there’s not much to root for beyond them swapping spit and sweethearts. Naveen Kumar, Variety, 24 July 2023 The Italian artist had blended the engineering of playgrounds with the carnal thrill of bondage, orchestrating a network of steel pipe, black leather, and chain swings, suspended from a steel frame. Town & Country, 23 June 2023 Culture writer Deborah Vankin spent some time in the studio with one of the first artists selected: Laurie Kang, an artist whose organic, practically carnal works are made with sheets of film and cast aluminum. Los Angeles Times, 9 Apr. 2022 Beats from all over the map flow into each other; snatches of dialogue slip into the mix; the lyrics are focused on feeling good, whether through carnal pleasure or being comfortable in one’s own skin. Maura Johnston, Rolling Stone, 9 June 2023 Leslie’s motives are carnal, but Kira’s are harder for Kip to decipher. Jim Ruland, Los Angeles Times, 1 May 2023 The Count's appetites are never carnal, even when ordering a busload of cheerleaders. A.a. Dowd, Chron, 12 Apr. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'carnal.' 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, from Anglo-French or Late Latin; Anglo-French carnel, charnel, from Late Latin carnalis, from Latin carn-, caro flesh; akin to Greek keirein to cut — more at shear

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of carnal was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near carnal

Cite this Entry

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

Kids Definition


car·​nal ˈkärn-ᵊl How to pronounce carnal (audio)
: of or relating to the body
: not spiritual : corporeal
carnality noun
carnally adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on carnal

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