Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. The period of merrymaking and feasting celebrated just before Lent.
  • n. A traveling amusement show usually including rides, games, and sideshows.
  • n. A festival or revel: winter carnival.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A festive occasion marked by parades and sometimes special foods and other entertainment

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A festival celebrated with merriment and revelry in Roman Gatholic countries during the week before Lent, esp. at Rome and Naples, during a few days (three to ten) before Lent, ending with Shrove Tuesday.
  • n. Any merrymaking, feasting, or masquerading, especially when overstepping the bounds of decorum; a time of riotous excess.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. The feast or season of rejoicing before Lent, observed in Roman Catholic countries with public merriment and revelry, feasts, balls, operas, concerts, etc.
  • n. Figuratively, feasting or revelry in general.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a frenetic disorganized (and often comic) disturbance suggestive of a large public entertainment
  • n. a traveling show; having sideshows and rides and games of skill etc.
  • n. a festival marked by merrymaking and processions

Etymologies

Italian carnevale, from Old Italian carnelevare, Shrovetide : carne, meat (from Latin carō, carn-; see sker-1 in Indo-European roots) + levare, to remove (from Latin levāre, to raise).
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Italian carnevale, from the Latin phrase carnem levāre, to put away meat (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Baker said he has a bone to pick with people who use the term "carnival barker" and admitted to being shocked when the President singled out his industry.

    The Full Feed from HuffingtonPost.com

  • However, Zigun -- who says he voted for Obama in 2008 and will probably support him again in 2012 -- does believe the President misspoke when he used the term "carnival barker."

    The Full Feed from HuffingtonPost.com

  • For one of the boys, the carnival is always the best thing to happen all year; the other boy is a little afraid of the carnival's presence.

    Boing Boing

  • A small walk-up eatery that serves what I call carnival-type food.

    Restaurant Meme

  • Mr. Martival, however, appears to have thought otherwise, for one night, after what they call their carnival dance here, which every one in the neighborhood had attended, Mr. Martival had the brutality to close his doors against her, and refuse to let her enter the house.

    The New Tenant

  • "There's been quite a bit of what we call carnival revival," said Darren Tristano, a restaurant expert at market researcher Technomic.

    chicagotribune.com - News

  • “I haven’t seen Ingrid since the carnival,” she said, stressing the word carnival to jolt his memory.

    Stones from the River

  • James explains that this new carnival is particularly interested in blog posting on:

    Announcing the Carnival on Modern Liberty

  • The carnival is the place of madcap entertainment that brings everyone together to celebrate common humanity.

    2009 January « Tales from the Reading Room

  • The town of Huejotzingo, close to Cholula and famous for its pre-Lenten carnival, is surrounded by apple orchards.

    September in the Mexican sierra: an abundance of apples

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Comments

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  • "Whatever social category you had been boxed into—male or female, rich or poor—carnival was a chance to escape from it."
    —Barbara Ehrenreich, Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2006), 88

    Great book, by the way, if you have an interest in carnival. Here's another paragraph that I found compelling:

    "Finally, with secularization, there had to be a realization that festivity, even when it occurred on religious holidays, was ultimately a product of human agency. Ancient Dionysian revelers and Christian glossolaliacs believed that their moments of ecstasy were the gifts of a deity. But when the church doors closed shut on festivity in the late Middle Ages, the revelers must have understood that whatever joys they found were of their own, entirely human, creation. Huge amounts of effort and expense went into a successful celebration: Costumes had to be sewed, dance steps and dramas rehearsed, sets built, special pastries and meats prepared. Pleasures crafted with so much creativity and forethought—pleasures that, moreover, were often barely tolerated by the ecclesiastical establishment—can hardly be said to come from God. In the secularized festivities of the late Middle Ages, people could discover the truth of Mikhail Bakhtin's great insight: that carnival is something people create and generate for themselves. Or, as Goethe wrote, carnival 'is a festival that really is not given to the people, but one the people give themselves.'"
    (p. 94–95)

    March 14, 2009

  • This being Wordie, naturally the etymological discussion of carnival is on shrovetide.

    February 17, 2009