cra·​ni·​um ˈkrā-nē-əm How to pronounce cranium (audio)
plural craniums or crania ˈkrā-nē-ə How to pronounce cranium (audio)
: skull
specifically : the part of the skull that encloses the brain : braincase
Among the physical characters that distinguish them from other early humans are the long, low sweep of the Neanderthal craniumJames Shreeve
"Hey, big head!" Mahorn shouted. Aguirre does, in fact, have an extraordinary cranium. Jeff Coplon
You don't "watch" a film like Fight Club; you mainline a deluge of visual and sonic information (including a hefty chunk of the IKEA catalog) straight into your cranium. Jeff Gordinier

Example Sentences

the cranium of a Neanderthal is striking for its brow ridges
Recent Examples on the Web Boskop has a face that takes up only about one-fifth of his cranium size, closer to the proportions of a child. Richard Granger, Discover Magazine, 31 Oct. 2022 Along with the cranium and mandible specimens, the hoax perpetrator gathered a plethora of bones and teeth from different mammals from various dig sites around the world, some dating authentically to the Pleistocene and Pliocene epochs hundreds of thousands to millions of years ago. David Warmflash, Discover Magazine, 31 Oct. 2016 This particular specimen would have been a medium sized theropod, says Ghianechini, measuring about 5 meters long from head to tail, based on the cranium size. Joshua Rapp Learn, Discover Magazine, 13 May 2021 Bone conduction headphones can use various bones in your cranium to establish sound, from the temporal bones on the side of your face at the front or the back of your ears, to the sphenoid bone at the front middle portion of your skull, to even your jaw bone. Courtney Linder, Popular Mechanics, 4 Aug. 2020 Her body had needle marks in the left arm, a wound on the right middle finger, and a bruised cranium. Betsy Bonner, Harper's Magazine, 18 Aug. 2020 The researchers published their big news in Science this April: Based on skull shape, the second cranium belonged to Paranthropus robustus, a Lucy-like relative with jumbo molars. Bridget Alex, Discover Magazine, 15 Dec. 2020 The center has funded research on homeopathy, acupuncture, and craniosacral therapy (lightly touching the cranium to relieve putative blockages). Matthew Hongoltz-hetling, The New Republic, 28 Feb. 2023 The Harbin cranium also tells another story about human evolution as a science and as an international discipline. Anthony Sinclair, Discover Magazine, 18 Aug. 2021 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'cranium.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Medieval Latin, from Greek kranion; akin to Greek kara head — more at cerebral

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of cranium was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near cranium

Cite this Entry

“Cranium.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Jun. 2023.

Kids Definition


cra·​ni·​um ˈkrā-nē-əm How to pronounce cranium (audio)
plural craniums or crania
: skull sense 1
especially : the part that encloses the brain

Medical Definition


cra·​ni·​um ˈkrā-nē-əm How to pronounce cranium (audio)
plural craniums or crania -nē-ə How to pronounce cranium (audio)
: skull
specifically : braincase

More from Merriam-Webster on cranium

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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