corporal

1 of 3

noun (1)

: 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

corporal

2 of 3

adjective

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

corporal

3 of 3

noun (2)

cor·​po·​ral ˈkȯr-p(ə-)rəl How to pronounce corporal (audio)
: a linen cloth on which the eucharistic elements are placed

Did you know?

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.

Example Sentences

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

Word History

Etymology

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

Adjective

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

First Known Use

Noun (1)

1579, in the meaning defined above

Adjective

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Noun (2)

14th century, in the meaning defined above

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

Dictionary Entries Near corporal

Cite this Entry

“Corporal.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/corporal. Accessed 9 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition

corporal

1 of 2 adjective
cor·​po·​ral ˈkȯr-p(ə-)rəl How to pronounce corporal (audio)
: of or relating to the body
whipping and other corporal punishments
corporally
adverb

corporal

2 of 2 noun
: a noncommissioned officer in the army or marines with a rank just below that of sergeant

Medical Definition

corporal

adjective
cor·​po·​ral ˈkȯr-p(ə-)rəl How to pronounce corporal (audio)
: of, relating to, or affecting the body
corporal punishment

More from Merriam-Webster on corporal

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!


The Great British Vocabulary Quiz

  • union jack speech bubble
  • Named after Sir Robert Peel, what are British police called?
Spell It

Hear a word and type it out. How many can you get right?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

TAKE THE QUIZ