man·tle | \ˈman-tᵊl \

Definition of mantle 

(Entry 1 of 3)

1a : a loose sleeveless garment worn over other clothes : cloak

b : a figurative cloak symbolizing preeminence or authority accepted the mantle of leadership

2a : something that covers, enfolds, or envelops (see envelop sense 1) The ground was covered with a mantle of leaves.

b(1) : a fold or lobe or pair of lobes of the body wall of a mollusk or brachiopod that in shell-bearing forms lines the shell and bears shell-secreting glands

(2) : the soft external body wall that lines the test or shell of a tunicate or barnacle (see barnacle sense 2)

c : the outer wall and casing of a blast furnace above the hearth (see hearth sense 1c) broadly : an insulated support or casing in which something is heated

3 : the upper back of a bird

4 : a lacy hood or sheath of some refractory (see refractory entry 1 sense 3) material that gives light by incandescence when placed over a flame

5a : regolith

b : the part of the interior of a terrestrial (see terrestrial sense 3) planet and especially the earth that lies beneath the crust and above the central core

6 : mantel


mantled; mantling\ˈmant-liŋ, ˈman-tᵊl-iŋ \

Definition of mantle (Entry 2 of 3)

transitive verb

: to cover with or as if with a mantle : cloak the encroaching jungle growth that mantled the building— Sanka Knox

intransitive verb

1 : to become covered with a coating

2 : to spread over a surface

3 : blush her rich face mantling with emotion— Benjamin Disraeli


biographical name
Man·tle | \ˈman-tᵊl \

Definition of Mantle (Entry 3 of 3)

Mickey (Charles) 1931–1995 American baseball player

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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 mantle in a Sentence


She accepted the mantle of leadership. a long black velvet mantle


early-morning fog mantled the fields along the river
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Like the knights in the procession, the royals attending the ceremony dressed in a deep green velvet mantle with a white lining and star on the left side. Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "Prince William's Super Ornate Outfit in Scotland Is Full of Royal Symbolism," 6 July 2018 The new owners are upholding the mantle of environmentally conscious business. Ariella Gintzler, Outside Online, "GoLite, Thru-Hikers' Favorite Brand, Is Back. Sorta.," 10 May 2018 Both the speakers and marchers of the day pledged their commitment to picking up King's mantle. The Washington Post,, "Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg to Capitol Hill: 'It was my mistake, and I'm sorry.'," 9 Apr. 2018 Sharp is a celebration of a group of extraordinary women, an engaging introduction to their works, and a testament to how anyone who feels powerless can claim the mantle of writer, and, perhaps, change the world. Anna Diamond, Smithsonian, "Writing in the Public Eye, These Women Brought the 20th Century Into Focus," 4 Apr. 2018 Throughout the race so far, McCain has gone out of his way not to seem too confident in a win-rejecting advice from his top aides to forcefully seize the mantle of Republican frontrunner. Newsweek, "Analysis," 14 Mar. 2018 Nominations: 12 Written and directed by the team behind Gilmore Girls, Mrs. Maisel is a wish-fulfillment fantasy about a 1950s housewife in New York City who throws off the mantle of the patriarchy to become a raunchy stand-up comic. Emily Dreyfuss, WIRED, "9 Emmy-Nominated Shows You Can Binge to Escape Reality," 13 July 2018 But some takes place more slowly, as the gummy rock of the deeper mantle gradually readjusts to the lighter burden. Katie Langin, Science | AAAS, "Rising bedrock below West Antarctica could delay catastrophic ice sheet collapse," 21 June 2018 And while faith in the US recedes, China and Russia are nibbling at the edges of the US mantle of global leadership. Peter Ford, The Christian Science Monitor, "World sees US paying high diplomatic price for Trump's Iran deal withdrawal," 16 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'mantle.' 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 mantle


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


13th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

History and Etymology for mantle


Middle English mantel, from Anglo-French, from Latin mantellum


see mantle entry 1

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Phrases Related to mantle

take on the mantle of

Statistics for mantle

Last Updated

10 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for mantle

The first known use of mantle was in the 13th century

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More Definitions for mantle



English Language Learners Definition of mantle

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a loose piece of clothing without sleeves that was worn over other clothes especially in the past

: something that covers or surrounds something else

: the position of someone who has responsibility or authority



English Language Learners Definition of mantle (Entry 2 of 2)

: to cover or surround (something)


man·tle | \ˈman-tᵊl \

Kids Definition of mantle

1 : a loose sleeveless outer garment

2 : something that covers or wraps The town was covered with a mantle of snow.

3 : the part of the earth's interior beneath the crust and above the central core

4 : a fold of the body wall of a mollusk that produces the shell material


man·tle | \ˈman-tᵊl \

Medical Definition of mantle 

1 : something that covers, enfolds, or envelops

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Comments on mantle

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


a state of commotion or excitement

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