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 mantling (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 whole family is thoroughly impressed with the TV, which actually looks nice on the mantle. Maya Mcdowell, House Beautiful, "All the Design Lessons We Learned From Bobby Berk on Season 3 of 'Queer Eye'," 16 Mar. 2019 Magnetization in ancient rocks suggests that the Red Planet had a global magnetic field like Earth's in its very early history, one that was powered by a spinning liquid mantle and metallic core. Sarah Kaplan, Washington Post, "‘Marsquakes’ are a thing, and this NASA spacecraft will go look for them," 3 May 2018 Upon his death, that mantle fell to Henry VII and Elizabeth's only remaining son, the future King Henry VIII. Lauren Hubbard, Town & Country, "The Cause of Prince Arthur Tudor's Death Remains a Medical Mystery," 13 May 2019 The inline-four has always dominated the mid- to high-end of the sport bike market, but while the I4 re-took the road bike mantle, manufacturers honed their expertise on V4 racing motorcycles throughout the 2000s. Matthew Jancer, Popular Mechanics, "The New Age of the V4 Road Bike," 26 Apr. 2019 Arizona might be left alone to carry the Pac-12 mantle. Dan Greene, SI.com, "Sleepers, Snubs and Stats: 18 Things to Know About the 2018 NCAA Tournament Bracket," 12 Mar. 2018 The reporter who has often carried this mantle has been Popkey. idahostatesman, "About Us: 150 Years of News and Change | Idaho Statesman," 1 Aug. 2015 This suggests that the systems take a while to build and likely find their roots deeper in the planet’s atmosphere, and perhaps even deeper than that in its superheated ocean-like mantle of water, ammonia, and methane-ices. Jill Kiedaisch, Popular Mechanics, "Hubble Observes Ice Giant Vortexes and Polar Storms on Neptune and Uranus," 9 Feb. 2019 The Ku Klux Klan pioneered the practice, and antifa has taken up the mantle in recent years. Alejandro Bermudez, WSJ, "Catholics Against Columbus," 24 Jan. 2019

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 and Verb

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

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Statistics for mantle

Last Updated

6 Jun 2019

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
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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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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