mantle

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

Definition of mantle

 (Entry 1 of 2)

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 2)

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 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
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The director attached to the project had to drop out at the last minute due to scheduling conflicts and Madhavan who had a deep understanding of the script having written it himself after conversations with Narayanan had to take up the mantle. Naman Ramachandran, Variety, 18 May 2022 As of June 20, Daniel Ash will take up the mantle as the new president of the Field Foundation. Darcel Rockett, Chicago Tribune, 13 May 2022 Walton plays a boy who coaxes his hero to again take up the mantle and save their city from a new villain (Asbaek). Michael O'sullivan, Anchorage Daily News, 6 May 2022 Walton plays a boy who coaxes his hero to again take up the mantle and save their city from a new villain (Asbaek). Washington Post, 5 May 2022 The mantle of the Judds has always been uneasy for Wy to carry, since Naomi was the one who willed the duo into existence, but now, the Judds’ legacy is firmly in Wynonna’s hands. Hunter Kelly, Rolling Stone, 2 May 2022 While the marble mantle and glossy floating shelves are angular and sharp, the coffee table and ottoman are soft and rounded. Hadley Mendelsohn, House Beautiful, 13 Apr. 2022 In some places, the mantle of ice is more than 3,000 feet thick. Eva Holland, Travel + Leisure, 10 Feb. 2022 The mantle over the bedroom fireplace is one of several holdovers from Susan’s childhood home. Richard A. Marini, San Antonio Express-News, 27 Sep. 2021 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, 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 See More

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.

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

Learn More About mantle

Time Traveler for mantle

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near mantle

mantis shrimp

mantle

Mantle

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Statistics for mantle

Last Updated

25 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Mantle.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mantle. Accessed 27 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for mantle

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

Mantle biographical name

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

Definition of Mantle

Mickey (Charles) 1931–1995 American baseball player

More from Merriam-Webster on mantle

Nglish: Translation of mantle for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of mantle for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about mantle

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