noun (1)

Definition of corporal

 (Entry 1 of 3)

: a noncommissioned officer ranking in the army above a private first class and below a sergeant and in the marine corps above a lance corporal and below a sergeant



Definition of corporal (Entry 2 of 3)

1 : of, relating to, or affecting the body corporal punishment corporal works of mercy
2 obsolete : corporeal, physical


noun (2)
cor·​po·​ral | \ ˈkȯr-p(ə-)rəl How to pronounce corporal (audio) \

Definition of corporal (Entry 3 of 3)

: a linen cloth on which the eucharistic elements are placed

Other Words from corporal


corporally \ ˈkȯr-​p(ə-​)rə-​lē How to pronounce corporal (audio) \ adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for corporal

Synonyms: Adjective

Antonyms: Adjective

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The Various Uses of Corporal


The adjective corporal today usually appears in the phrase corporal punishment, which means "bodily punishment". This used to include such acts as mutilation, branding, imprisonment, and even death. But today execution comes under the separate heading of "capital punishment", which originally involved losing your head (capit- meaning "head"). Milder forms of corporal punishment are used by American parents, and were once common in schools as well. Corporal is occasionally used in other ways; in the traditional church, the "corporal works of mercy" include seven helpful acts such as sheltering the homeless and burying the dead. Corporal as a military rank actually comes from caporal—which has the same root as capital.

Examples of corporal in a Sentence

Adjective started to suffer the corporal ailments that come with advancing age

First Known Use of corporal

Noun (1)

1579, in the meaning defined above


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Noun (2)

14th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for corporal

Noun (1)

borrowed from Middle French, "lowest noncommissioned officer," alteration (by association with cors, corps "body," Latin corporālis "of the body") of caporal, borrowed from Italian caporale "leader of a small military unit," probably from Medieval Latin capor-, capur-, restructuring of Latin capit- (stem of caput "head") + Italian -ale, noun and adjective suffix, going back to Latin -ālis -al entry 1 — more at head entry 1


Middle English corporel, corporal, borrowed from Anglo-French & Latin; Anglo-French corporel, borrowed from Latin corporālis "of the body, corporeal," from corpor-, corpus "body" + -ālis -al entry 1 — more at midriff

Noun (2)

Middle English corporalle, borrowed from Anglo-French & Medieval Latin; Anglo-French corporal, borrowed from Medieval Latin corporāle (probably originally as modifying linteāmen "linen cloth" or a word of similar sense), from neuter of Latin corporālis "of the body, corporeal" (alluding to the belief that the eucharistic elements are the body of Christ) — more at corporal entry 2

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Time Traveler for corporal

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The first known use of corporal was in the 14th century

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Dictionary Entries Near corporal



corporal's guard

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Cite this Entry

“Corporal.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Jan. 2022.

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More Definitions for corporal


cor·​po·​ral | \ ˈkȯr-pə-rəl How to pronounce corporal (audio) , ˈkȯr-prəl \

Kids Definition of corporal

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: of or relating to the body corporal punishment



Kids Definition of corporal (Entry 2 of 2)

: a noncommissioned officer ranking above a private in the army or above a lance corporal in the marine corps


cor·​po·​ral | \ ˈkȯr-p(ə-)rəl How to pronounce corporal (audio) \

Medical Definition of corporal

: of, relating to, or affecting the body corporal punishment

More from Merriam-Webster on corporal

Nglish: Translation of corporal for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of corporal for Arabic Speakers


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