mantel

noun
man·​tel | \ ˈman-tᵊl How to pronounce mantel (audio) \

Definition of mantel

1a : a beam, stone, or arch serving as a lintel to support the masonry above a fireplace
b : the finish around a fireplace
2 : a shelf above a fireplace

Keep scrolling for more

Mantle vs. Mantel

Keeping mantel and mantle straight is relatively simple.

Mantel in modern English largely does one job: it refers to the shelf above a fireplace. You can remember it by thinking of the "el" in both mantel and shelf.

Mantle on the other hand, does many jobs, including a number that are technical or scientific. Its most common uses are to refer to a literal cloak, mostly of the kind worn in days of yore ("she drew her mantle tighter"), and to a figurative cloak symbolizing authority or importance ("taking on the mantle of the museum's directorship"). It also refers to a general covering in literary uses like "wet earth covered in a mantle of leaves" or "a past shrouded in a mantle of secrecy." And it's also the term for the middle layer of the Earth between the crust and the inner core.

There is, however, a catch to these distinctions: mantle is sometimes used (especially in American English) to refer to the shelf above a fireplace as well—that is, as a synonym of mantel.

This isn't terribly surprising, given the histories of the words. They both derive from the Latin word mantellum, which refers both to a cloak and to a beam or stone supporting the masonry above a fireplace. The words came into use in English a couple centuries apart, but were for a time in the past nothing more than spelling variants.

While it's certainly simpler to use mantle in all cases, mantel is significantly more common as the choice for the shelf, which means it's the safer choice in those cases.

Examples of mantel in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web On Saturday, top-seeded St. Edward got the rare chance to add another state championship to its mantel on its home floor by hosting the Ohio State Dual Meet Wrestling Tournament. cleveland, "St. Edward defeats Brecksville to win third straight Division I state duals wrestling championship," 7 Feb. 2021 In fact, Ellis' mantel displays all the symbols of this African American celebration that begins Dec. 26 and runs through New Year's Day. Rohan Preston Star Tribune, Star Tribune, "Kwanzaa takes on special poignancy after the killing of George Floyd," 18 Dec. 2020 For indoor or outdoor use, drape them across a fireplace mantel, along a hallway, across your house’s eaves or along a fence. Lesley Kennedy, CNN Underscored, "24 Christmas lights to illuminate your home for the holidays," 1 Dec. 2020 There are two white stockings hanging on the mantel, one for Stormi and one for Kylie. Rania Aniftos, Billboard, "Watch Stormi Sing 'Jingle Bells' as Kylie Jenner Shows Off Lavish Home Christmas Decorations," 28 Dec. 2020 The fireplace features a large custom cedar mantel. Dallas News, "Traditional Classic Homes offers remodeled Richardson Heights home," 27 Dec. 2020 Critics say the Justice Department's resumption of federal executions this year is a cynical bid to help Trump claim the mantel of law-and-order candidate leading up to Election Day. Michael Tarm, Star Tribune, "US government executes killer obsessed with witchcraft," 22 Sep. 2020 Critics say the Justice Department's resumption of federal executions this year is a cynical bid to help Trump claim the mantel of law-and-order candidate leading up to Election Day. Michael Tarm, Star Tribune, "US government executes killer obsessed with witchcraft," 22 Sep. 2020 Some rest flush against a mantel, while others are made by graduating the ribbon, loop by loop, to make very large bows. Virginia Brown, Washington Post, "Seven ways to elevate your holiday decorating, according to the pros at Biltmore," 10 Dec. 2020

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

See More

First Known Use of mantel

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for mantel

Middle English, from Anglo-French, mantle

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about mantel

Time Traveler for mantel

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for mantel

Last Updated

19 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Mantel.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mantel. Accessed 24 Feb. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLA Chicago APA Merriam-Webster

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for mantel

mantel

noun

English Language Learners Definition of mantel

chiefly US : the shelf above a fireplace

mantel

noun
man·​tel | \ ˈman-tᵊl How to pronounce mantel (audio) \

Kids Definition of mantel

: a shelf above a fireplace

More from Merriam-Webster on mantel

Nglish: Translation of mantel for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about mantel

Comments on mantel

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

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

More Confusing Words—Quiz

  • cats on impossible timber
  • The magician ______ moved the selected card to the top of the deck.
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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