adjective car·nal \ˈkär-nəl\

Definition of carnal

  1. 1a :  relating to or given to crude bodily pleasures and appetites gluttony and other carnal activitiesb :  marked by sexuality carnal love

  2. 2 :  bodily, corporeal seen with carnal eyes

  3. 3a :  temporal carnal weapons the superiority of the spiritual and eternal over the carnal — H. O. Taylorb :  worldly a carnal mind


play \kär-ˈna-lə-tē\ noun


play \ˈkär-nə-lē\ adverb

Examples of carnal in a sentence

  1. the preacher warned that those who were interested only in carnal pursuits would not see the kingdom of heaven

  2. a missionary who tends to the carnal needs of the people as well as to their spiritual concerns

Did You Know?

In Christianity in past centuries, carnal was often used as the opposite of spiritual, describing what are sometimes called "the pleasures of the flesh". Thus, gluttony--the consumption of excessive food and drink--was a deadly carnal sin, whereas the holiest monks and hermits might eat hardly anything and never touch wine. Today carnal has a somewhat old-fashioned sound; when we use it, we generally mean simply "sexual".

Origin and Etymology of carnal

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

Synonym Discussion of 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 a slave 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.

CARNAL Defined for English Language Learners


adjective car·nal \ˈkär-nəl\

Definition of carnal for English Language Learners

  • : of or relating to the body : sexual or sensual

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