mantle

noun
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

mantle

verb
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

Mantle

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

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

Hoping to rectify the situation, the saint slid down the family’s chimney in the middle of the night to fill the girls’ stockings, which had been hung on the mantle to dry, with shiny gold coins. Vogue, "Day 8: Stuff Your Stockings With Care," 12 Nov. 2018 The pleasure of his presence on this mantle is similar to Twain’s. Popular Mechanics Editors, Popular Mechanics, "In Defense of Elon Musk," 16 Oct. 2018 As strong economic growth buoyed his control, Hun Sen began to assume the mantle of statesman and prepared his sons — appointed to important military positions — to be his political successors. Fox News, "Hun Sen plays hardball to keep his grip on Cambodia," 31 July 2018 Especially as some of NASCAR's elder statesmen have left the sport, Harvick has assumed (or at least tried to assume) the mantle as NASCAR's older voice of reason. Brendan Marks, charlotteobserver, "Dale Jr.'s a broadcaster now. Here are 5 NASCAR drivers who could follow him to TV.," 5 July 2018 William is there with his wife and young daughter, ready to assume James' mantle. Sandra Upson, WIRED, "Westworld Recap, Season 2 Episode 8: The Great Ghost Nation Mystery," 11 June 2018 Since assuming the mantle of leadership, Kim Jong Un has demonstrated a ruthlessness that has spurred even more fantastical theories about his personality and what motivates him. Jamie Tarabay, CNN, "Who is Kim Jong Un? Separating myth from fact," 5 June 2018 So it was left to his baby brother to assume the mantle. Karina Bland, USA TODAY, "'Star Wars' baby names? This mom went for it because there's always another Jacob out there," 14 May 2018 So it was left to his baby brother to assume the mantle. Karina Bland, azcentral, "Mom looks to 'Star Wars' for baby name, because there's always another Jacob or Emily," 11 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

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

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

Verb

see mantle entry 1

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Statistics for mantle

Last Updated

5 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for mantle

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

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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

: something that covers or surrounds something else

: the position of someone who has responsibility or authority

mantle

verb

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

: to cover or surround (something)

mantle

noun
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

mantle

noun
man·​tle | \ˈman-tᵊl \

Medical Definition of mantle 

1 : something that covers, enfolds, or envelops

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More from Merriam-Webster on mantle

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with mantle

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for mantle

Spanish Central: Translation of mantle

Nglish: Translation of mantle for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of mantle for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about mantle

Comments on mantle

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