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

  • n. A repository for the bones or bodies of the dead; a charnel house.
  • adj. Resembling, suggesting, or suitable for receiving the dead.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A chapel attached to a mortuary.
  • n. A repository for dead bodies.
  • adj. Of or relating to a charnel, deathlike, sepulchral.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Containing the bodies of the dead.
  • n. A charnel house; a grave; a cemetery.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A common repository for dead bodies; a place for the indiscriminate or close deposit of the remains, and especially of the bones, of the dead; a charnel-house.
  • Containing or designed to contain flesh or dead bodies.
  • n. A hinge, as of a door, window, chest, etc.
  • n. The pivot or hinge on which the beaver or vizor of a helmet moved.

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

  • n. a vault or building where corpses or bones are deposited
  • adj. gruesomely indicative of death or the dead


Middle English, from Old French, from Late Latin carnāle, from neuter of Latin carnālis, of the flesh, from carō, carn-, flesh; see sker-1 in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle French charnel < Late Latin carnāle ("graveyard") < Latin carnālis, or possibly an alteration of Anglo-Norman charner < Medieval Latin carnārium ("charnel"). (Wiktionary)


  • His chamber is hung commonly with strange beasts skins, and is a kind of charnel-house of bones extraordinary; and his discourse upon them, if you will hear him, shall last longer.

    Microcosmography or, a Piece of the World Discovered; in Essays and Characters

  • Emperor, was allowed to enter a kind of charnel-house, and to see what had been the lovely gaily-painted vellums lying squalidly piled in heaps.

    The Great Book-Collectors

  • First, the cave is frequented by wild beasts, who make it a kind of charnel-house.

    Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation

  • The land for the cemetery was originally leased from St Paul's Cathedral, which had used it as a dumping ground for bones being cleared from the charnel house and tiny burial ground around the church.

    Burial ground of Bunyan, Defoe and Blake earns protected status

  • Each year we build a new addition to the charnel house of contemporary life.

    John Feffer: Pinker: Pollyanna of Peace?

  • In truth, we found fevers, violent deaths, pestilential paradises where death and beauty kept charnel-house together.

    Chapter 15

  • The place became a charnel house, and in the middle of the night the survivors fled forth, taking nothing with them except arms and ammunition and a heavy store of tinned foods.

    Page 5

  • From behind the clan house came the cloying reek of the associated charnel house.

    Fire The Sky

  • We marched straight into the sacred city of Coosa, acting as if we had every right in the world to stroll past the intricately carved charnel house atop its mound.

    Fire The Sky

  • Only the charnel house off the plaza showed any sign of maintenance, the weeds pulled, the paths leading to it heavily traveled.

    Fire The Sky


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  • "4. The pivot or hinge on which the beaver or vizor of a helmet moved."
    --Century Dictionary

    April 6, 2011

  • It's related to carnal (charnel, that is). Char is pretty interesting, from what I can find. Each meaning of the word has a different derivation. "Char" meaning "to burn" comes, not surprisingly, from charcoal. "Char" the fish and "char" as in charwoman comes from Old English ceorra, "turner," derived from ceorran "to turn." And "char" as in the British informal word for tea (really? I've never heard this before) is from the Hindi c�?, which means, of course, "tea."

    I guess I should have put all of this on the char page. :-)

    November 11, 2007

  • Really? What about the root of char then? Are they related? Signed, Too Lazy to Go Look.

    November 11, 2007

  • Really? Hmm. I always thought this word sounded creepy. And its root means "flesh."

    November 11, 2007

  • This word is way too pretty for what it means. Hey reesetee--maybe it should be on your "Worse Than It Sounds" list?

    November 11, 2007