cra·​ni·​um | \ ˈkrā-nē-əm How to pronounce cranium (audio) \
plural craniums or crania\ ˈkrā-​nē-​ə How to pronounce crania (audio) \

Definition of cranium

: 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 cranium— James 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

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Synonyms for cranium


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Examples of cranium in a Sentence

the cranium of a Neanderthal is striking for its brow ridges
Recent Examples on the Web As expected, the Denisovan girl looked fairly similar to a Neanderthal, with a similarly flat cranium, protruding lower jaw, and sloping forehead, the researchers report this week in Cell. Michael Price, Science | AAAS, "Ancient DNA puts a face on the mysterious Denisovans, extinct cousins of Neanderthals," 19 Sep. 2019 Here’s a question that flashed through the Hotline’s cranium: At what point in October (November?) will every team have at least two losses? 2. Jon Wilner, The Denver Post, "Pac-12 football rewind: Cal loses, parity wins; the CFP question; Utah and WSU pass in the night; UW’s big weekend and more," 29 Sep. 2019 Carmen Bambach underscores the importance of the head — particularly the center of the cranium — within Leonardo’s exploration of anatomy. Philip Kennicott, Washington Post, "In real life, Jerome was a combative intellectual. Artists made him lovable.," 18 Sep. 2019 How many violent collisions had rattled his ears and jaw and cranium? Mitch Albom, Detroit Free Press, "Mitch Albom: Matthew Stafford's family crisis puts football in perspective," 8 Sep. 2019 Paton, a practitioner of phrenology, a pseudo-science that makes inferences about mental faculties and character traits based on the shape of the skull, took particular interest in Adie’s cranium. Brigit Katz, Smithsonian, "Wanted: The Missing Bones of a Scottish ‘Witch’," 3 Sep. 2019 But now the researchers have been able to show that the fragment has features that are seen in younger A. afarensis skulls but are absent in the MRD cranium. Colin Barras, Scientific American, "Rare 3.8 Million-Year-Old Skull Recasts Origins of Iconic “Lucy” Fossil," 29 Aug. 2019 This nearly complete hominin cranium was discovered in Ethiopia. Malcolm Ritter, Los Angeles Times, "3.8-million-year-old fossil reveals face of Lucy’s ancestors," 28 Aug. 2019 The crest of the MRD cranium, which is surprisingly modern, now challenges this view. Hester Hanegraef, Quartz Africa, "The skull of humanity’s oldest known ancestor is changing our understanding of evolution," 7 Sep. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'cranium.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of cranium

15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for cranium

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

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Time Traveler for cranium

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

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Statistics for cranium

Last Updated

8 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Cranium.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 8 December 2019.

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More Definitions for cranium


cra·​ni·​um | \ ˈkrā-nē-əm How to pronounce cranium (audio) \
plural craniums or crania\ -​nē-​ə \

Kids Definition of cranium

1 : skull
2 : the part of the skull enclosing the brain


cra·​ni·​um | \ ˈkrā-nē-əm How to pronounce cranium (audio) \
plural craniums or crania\ -​nē-​ə How to pronounce crania (audio) \

Medical Definition of cranium

: skull specifically : braincase

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Spanish Central: Translation of cranium

Nglish: Translation of cranium for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about cranium

Comments on cranium

What made you want to look up cranium? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to constrict the range or activity of

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