Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun An ornamental facing around a fireplace.
  • noun The protruding shelf over a fireplace.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun In geometry, lateral surface: as, the mantel of a frustum.
  • noun 1. A cloak. See mantle (the present spelling in this sense).
  • noun In architecture, all the work or facing around a fireplace, resting against the chimney, and usually projecting and more or less ornamental.
  • noun In a restricted sense, a mantel-shelf.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun (Arch.) The finish around a fireplace, covering the chimney-breast in front and sometimes on both sides; especially, a shelf above the fireplace, and its supports. The shelf is called also a mantelpiece or mantlepiece.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun the shelf above a fireplace which may be also a structural support for the masonry of the chimney

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

  • noun shelf that projects from wall above fireplace

Etymologies

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

[Middle English mantel (as in mantiltre, beam over fireplace opening, perhaps from its use for drying wet clothing); see manteltree.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Old English mentel ("sleeveless cloak"), later reinforced by cognate Anglo-Norman mantel, both from Latin mantēllum ("covering, cloak"), diminutive of mantum, likely from Gaulish.

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