mantle

noun
man·​tle | \ ˈman-tᵊl How to pronounce mantle (audio) \

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

mantle

verb
mantled; mantling\ ˈmant-​liŋ How to pronounce mantle (audio) , 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

Mantle

biographical name
Man·​tle | \ ˈman-tᵊl How to pronounce Mantle (audio) \

Definition of Mantle (Entry 3 of 3)

Mickey (Charles) 1931–1995 American baseball player

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Mantle vs. Mantel

Noun

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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The lawmakers are taking up the mantle for opposite ends of the political spectrum, Scott for conservatives and Bowman for progressives. Rick Klein, Averi Harper, ABC News, "Biden's bets grow on what government can do: The Note," 28 Apr. 2021 But the amount of cryptocurrencies that could vie for the mantle of the new digital safeguard is not limited. Shawn Tully, Fortune, "Betting on Bitcoin? You should know the story of the Hunt brothers and the silver market," 15 Apr. 2021 The evaluation classifies an earthquake as caused by movements in the mantle of the earth. Ian Palmer, Forbes, "Why The Permian Basin May Not Be The Best Place To Store Nuclear Waste.," 3 Apr. 2021 With no new champion crowned, Baylor entered this year with the mantle of defending titleholder, but also with plenty of unanswered questions about what could have been, especially for the Bears who concluded their careers last March. Greg Luca, San Antonio Express-News, "Baylor opens long-awaited national championship defense with rout of Jackson State," 21 Mar. 2021 The president only did what so many previous European and American leaders have done, draping themselves in the mantle of culture to inveigh against an amorphous other. Kanishk Tharoor, The New Republic, "Pankaj Mishra’s Reckoning With Liberalism’s Bloody Past," 22 Feb. 2021 The irony is that the rebellion now marches under the seemingly tame mantle of pop. Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, "The Countercultural Sound of the 2020s," 14 Feb. 2021 Compared with other American companies, Opera Philadelphia is laying claim to the mantle of making new material during the pandemic. Seth Colter Walls, New York Times, "Prompted by the Pandemic, Opera Philadelphia Innovates Online," 22 Jan. 2021 After leaving his role of first selectman, Joseloff went back to his first calling, taking on the mantle of editor once again. Zoe Christen Jones, CBS News, "Gordon Joseloff, longtime CBS News journalist, dies at 75," 9 Nov. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb 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, "Fremont ranks as fifth most unfaithful city in the nation on affairs website hotlist," 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, "On the Brink of the Savior’s Arrival," 12 Oct. 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

Noun

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

Verb

13th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

History and Etymology for mantle

Noun and Verb

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

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Time Traveler for mantle

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for mantle

Last Updated

1 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Mantle.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mantle. Accessed 6 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for mantle

mantle

noun

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
literary : something that covers or surrounds something else
formal : the position of someone who has responsibility or authority

mantle

verb

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

formal + literary : to cover or surround (something)

mantle

noun
man·​tle | \ ˈman-tᵊl How to pronounce mantle (audio) \

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

mantle

noun
man·​tle | \ ˈman-tᵊl How to pronounce mantle (audio) \

Medical Definition of mantle

1 : something that covers, enfolds, or envelops

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Comments on mantle

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