mantle

1 of 2

noun

man·​tle ˈman-tᵊl How to pronounce mantle (audio)
1
a
: a loose sleeveless garment worn over other clothes : cloak
b
: a figurative cloak symbolizing preeminence or authority
accepted the mantle of leadership
2
a
: 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
5
a
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

mantle

2 of 2

verb

mantled; mantling ˈmant-liŋ How to pronounce mantle (audio)
ˈman-tᵊl-iŋ

transitive verb

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

intransitive verb

1
: to become covered with a coating
2
: to spread over a surface
3
: blush
her rich face mantling with emotionBenjamin Disraeli

Did you know?

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

Noun She accepted the mantle of leadership. a long black velvet mantle Verb early-morning fog mantled the fields along the river
Recent Examples on the Web
Noun
And while this is his first concert appearance in Charlotte since assuming his new mantle, there’s no first-day jitters. Amy Carleton, Charlotte Observer, 4 Apr. 2024 Ryan Seacrest will take on the mantle later this year, with Sajak staying on as a show consultant for the next three years. Larisha Paul, Rolling Stone, 2 Apr. 2024 That same year, a company called the Impossible Project was founded to take up the mantle Polaroid was leaving behind. Eric Ravenscraft, WIRED, 24 Mar. 2024 It’s been 35 years since Patrick Swayze first taught us that pain don’t hurt, and now Jake Gyllenhaal takes up that muscular mantle with Amazon Prime Video’s Road House remake (streaming now). Ew Staff Published, EW.com, 22 Mar. 2024 To take up her husband’s mantle, Ms. Navalnaya has to forge a new, solo public image. Rhonda Garelick, New York Times, 27 Feb. 2024 But Apple’s shares have fallen by 7% this year even as most of the stock market has climbed to new highs, resulting in long-time rival Microsoft – a target of a major Justice Department antitrust case a quarter-century ago – to seize the mantle as the world’s most valuable company. Michael Liedtke, Lindsay Whitehurst, The Christian Science Monitor, 21 Mar. 2024 Shoppers say the wreath is sturdy, made of quality materials, and looks great on their front doors and mantles. Toni Sutton, Peoplemag, 16 Mar. 2024 The peninsula sits atop a mantle plume — a fountain of heat rising from Earth’s core-mantle boundary. Robin George Andrews, Quanta Magazine, 20 Feb. 2024
Verb
Even as blue skies return, flood-weary farmers in the San Joaquin Valley have only to look east, to the towering Sierra mantled in snow, to know there is worse to come. Elvia Limón, Los Angeles Times, 15 Apr. 2023 And now, the Bay Area’s fourth-largest city can add to its awards mantle the fifth-place trophy among the most unfaithful cities in the nation. Joseph Geha, The Mercury News, 19 June 2019 Piero has also taken the liberty of eliminating red in Mary’s clothing, mantling her solely in her other primary color, blue, an expensive shade made from lapis lazuli brought from Afghanistan along the Silk Road. Willard Spiegelman, WSJ, 12 Oct. 2018

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

Word History

Etymology

Noun and Verb

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

First Known Use

Noun

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

Verb

13th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

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

Dictionary Entries Near mantle

Cite this Entry

“Mantle.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mantle. Accessed 14 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition

mantle

1 of 2 noun
man·​tle ˈmant-ᵊl How to pronounce mantle (audio)
1
: a loose sleeveless garment worn over other clothes : cloak
2
a
: something that covers or surrounds
a mantle of snow
a mantle of secrecy
b
: a fold or lobe or pair of lobes of the body wall of a mollusk or brachiopod that lines and produces the shell
3
: the portion of the earth lying between the crust and the core

mantle

2 of 2 verb
mantled; mantling ˈmant-liŋ How to pronounce mantle (audio)
-ᵊl-iŋ
: to cover or surround with or as if with a mantle

Medical Definition

mantle

noun
man·​tle ˈman-tᵊl How to pronounce mantle (audio)
1
: something that covers, enfolds, or envelops
2

Biographical Definition

Mantle

biographical name

Man·​tle ˈman-tᵊl How to pronounce Mantle (audio)
Mickey (Charles) 1931–1995 American baseball player

More from Merriam-Webster on mantle

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