cra·​ni·​um ˈkrā-nē-əm How to pronounce cranium (audio)
plural craniums or crania ˈkrā-nē-ə How to pronounce cranium (audio)
: skull
specifically : the part of the skull that encloses the brain : braincase
Among the physical characters that distinguish them from other early humans are the long, low sweep of the Neanderthal craniumJames Shreeve
"Hey, big head!" Mahorn shouted. Aguirre does, in fact, have an extraordinary cranium. Jeff Coplon
You don't "watch" a film like Fight Club; you mainline a deluge of visual and sonic information (including a hefty chunk of the IKEA catalog) straight into your cranium. Jeff Gordinier

Examples of cranium in a Sentence

the cranium of a Neanderthal is striking for its brow ridges
Recent Examples on the Web And a hominin cranium was found in 2002 in a travertine quarry in southwestern Turkey. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, 18 Apr. 2024 In the past, researchers have also uncovered the cranium of a Neanderthal female, featuring 35 similar incisions. Julia Binswanger, Smithsonian Magazine, 22 May 2024 The fossils include a partial frontal bone, including brow ridge, from the cranium, and the shaft of a shin bone, from Tam Pà Ling, a cave in northern Laos. Ryan McRae, Smithsonian Magazine, 28 Dec. 2023 The cranium of an individual with mosaic Turner syndrome from an Iron Age site in Somerset, UK. Elizabeth Rayne, Ars Technica, 15 Jan. 2024 At the time, Boas said this showed that environmental factors resulted in a huge degree of difference and that inherited traits and genetics weren’t the only things that influence measurements like cranium size. Joshua Rapp Learn, Discover Magazine, 9 Jan. 2024 Lady Gaga gets cracked in the cranium by a big pole: During Lady Gaga’s 2012 Born This Way Ball in Auckland, New Zealand, the singer was accidentally struck atop the head by a large pole, forcing her to momentarily evacuate the stage. Spin Contributor, SPIN, 8 Dec. 2023 The procedure will involve removing a coin-sized piece of the subject’s cranium and allowing a proprietary robot to weave superthin wires into their brain. Dhruv Mehrotra, WIRED, 22 Nov. 2023 Flat Bones Flat bones are broadened and flattened structures, as in the cranium, the sternum (breast bone), and the scapulae (shoulder blades). Sam Walters, Discover Magazine, 3 Nov. 2023

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

Word History


Medieval Latin, from Greek kranion; akin to Greek kara head — more at cerebral

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of cranium was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near cranium

Cite this Entry

“Cranium.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


cra·​ni·​um ˈkrā-nē-əm How to pronounce cranium (audio)
plural craniums or crania
: skull sense 1
especially : the part that encloses the brain

Medical Definition


cra·​ni·​um ˈkrā-nē-əm How to pronounce cranium (audio)
plural craniums or crania -nē-ə How to pronounce cranium (audio)
: skull
specifically : braincase

More from Merriam-Webster on cranium

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