Definition of cairn in English:


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  • 1A mound of rough stones built as a memorial or landmark, typically on a hilltop or skyline.

    ‘Elation was to glimpse limp prayer flags and rough cairns with goat horns that marked the pass.’
    • ‘Now, their pyramid-shaped middens, or mussel-shell dumps, stand along the coastline like memorial cairns.’
    • ‘Twelve stone cairns decorate the otherwise bare summit of Castle Dow, a tree - clad hill which lies in the clench of the River Tay just south of Grandtully.’
    • ‘The trail meanders across the bizarre scene with stone cairns built to mark the way.’
    • ‘The travellers and their guide came to the last ridge that rose between them and the summit, where they could see a tumbled cairn of stones.’
    • ‘The artist states, in his essay, that plaques, cairns and non-sculptural markers were disqualified in favor of those that maintained the formal category of the vertical shaft.’
    • ‘He removed thousands of stone tools from the landscape of south-eastern Australia, and in their place he erected stone cairns marking the paths of European explorers.’
    • ‘We climbed steeply over dark rocks to two high passes and, as is the custom, placed white stones on their cairns to ask for good luck and strength.’
    • ‘This three-venue show documents temporary and permanent work at locations across the country based on the cairn, a pile of stones used as a memorial or trail marker.’
    • ‘Near the lake named for him in central Alberta, not far from the homestead where he raised his nine children, a stone cairn will honour his extraordinary life.’
    • ‘Beautifully-crafted and rounded stones act as his cairn.’
    • ‘On reaching the top, we find a small cairn of stones.’
    • ‘This path is indicated by a small cairn of stones.’
    • ‘The royal visitor's final duty was to lay the final stone to a cairn built outside the main entrance and to unveil a commemorative plaque.’
    • ‘There are several hillocks, but the actual summit has a good cairn to reassure you that you have indeed reached the top!’
    • ‘I noticed a cairn of rocks piled up at the start of a rough side path.’
    • ‘After pottering around with compass in hand, I find the summit cairn and then get back off the mountain as quickly as possible, it's bloody cold up there.’
    • ‘Stacking large slabs on one another against a spine of uprights within a revetment wall, seems a very effective way to create an illusion of a well built and solid cairn.’
    • ‘An entertaining tight-rope walk, especially where the ridge narrows considerably for its final few feet to the summit cairn.’
    • ‘After half a mile cross the expansive plateau to a high level lochan and the summit cairn.’
    monument, shrine, mausoleum, cenotaph
    1. 1.1A prehistoric burial mound made of stones.
      ‘a chambered cairn’
      • ‘Skara Brae is a well-preserved prehistoric village, Maes Howe the best of a series of impressive prehistoric burial cairns, and numerous brochs and settlements attest to the islands' Pictish and Viking periods.’
      • ‘Caithness is well known to archaeologists for its Neolithic chambered burial cairns.’
      • ‘South of the fort is a cross-ridge dyke, and in the area traversed by the path there are burial cairns and prehistoric field boundaries.’
      • ‘There are hundreds of other chambered cairns and standing stones and several stone circles across the islands.’
      • ‘In prehistoric Britain early agricultural communities deposited their dead in communal, highly visible locations such as chambered tombs, barrows and burial cairns.’
      • ‘It soon became apparent that the row of large stones had defined the edge of a stone cairn covering a boat burial.’
      • ‘Surviving monuments in the Kilmartin Valley include a ‘linear cemetery’ of Bronze Age cairns, several standing stones, a stone circle and numerous elaborate rock art panels.’
      • ‘In contrast, the Le Sauvage fields remain closely associated with prehistoric cairns, and some are overlain by Rivalte-type walls, so are at least pre-Medieval.’
      • ‘Beyond the col, the track becomes steeper and you have to work a little harder to reach the summit of Mid Hill at 422m with its prehistoric burial cairn and view indicator.’
      • ‘Nearby is the 350m Auchenlaich cairn - the longest megalithic burial cairn in Britain.’
      • ‘Some of the many points of interest include early features such as burial mounds, stone circles and cairns that mark areas of prehistoric cultivation.’
      • ‘The main visible archaeological features are in stone, notably walls, cairns and trackways, with possible remains of a few rectangular buildings and burial cairns.’
      • ‘Its most impressive prehistoric site, among a plethora of chambered tombs and cairns, is that of the Knap of Howar, a Neolithic farm building, believed to be the oldest standing structure in northern Europe.’
      • ‘Just 11 km away at Turf Knowe near Ingram, a cairn covering stone cists has been radiocarbon dated to c 2,200 BC.’
      • ‘While no one would claim that every ancient monument was built which such high technical specifications it does start to explain the odd location of a number of cairns and burial mounds.’
      • ‘Scattered remnants and fragments of our ancient history are to be found abundantly in the North West in the form of cairns, dolmens and ring forts.’
      • ‘A chambered burial cairn known as Maeshowe is also being examined for potential damage as part of the study.’
      • ‘This menhir is surrounded by a network of enigmatic cairns and chambered warrior tombs.’
      • ‘I grew up in some of the more remote parts of Scotland with undiluted access to history and myth amid standing stones, cairns, tombs and ruins.’
      • ‘Unusually the cairn is named - Douglas's Cairn - and is believed to date from the Bronze Age.’
  • 2

    (also cairn terrier)
    A small terrier of a breed with short legs, a longish body, and a shaggy coat.

    ‘If the German Shepherd and Doberman stood on top in their numbers, the breeds like the wire-haired fox terrier, smooth-haired fox terrier, cairn terrier and Rhodesian Ridgeback were all loners.’
    • ‘We had an awesome cairn terrier / Jack Russell mix that was preternaturally intelligent, capable of stunning tricks (including climbing trees), but he wouldn't fetch a stick for any reward.’
    • ‘Much of the known early history of the cairn terrier, like that of the Skye terrier, centers on the island of Skye.’
    • ‘They live with their cairn terrier, Sammy, in a house in Bridgehampton, Long Island, and an eighth-floor apartment on Central Park with his studio in the former basement laundry, meaning he can take the lift to work.’
    • ‘The first, which apparently looked like my old cairn terrier Geordie (who died of old age about 8 years back), he bought to give to me, but later gave it spontaneously to his Aunt for no real discernible reason.’
    • ‘They are quite independent, but once you have had a cairn terrier that's it - you just fall in love with them.’


    Perhaps so named from being used to hunt among cairns.



/kern/ /kɛrn/


Late Middle English from Scottish Gaelic carn.