adjective car·nal \ˈkär-nəl\

Definition of carnal

  1. 1 a :  relating to or given to crude bodily pleasures and appetites b :  marked by sexuality <carnal love>

  2. 2 :  bodily, corporeal <seen with carnal eyes>

  3. 3 a :  temporal <carnal weapons> b :  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

Seen and Heard

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a harsh rebuke

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