Definition of charnel in English:



short for charnel house
  • ‘Most knights' bones never got into charnels; they were safely enclosed in tombs inside a church.’
  • ‘The charnel was pulled down after the Reformation.’
  • ‘Undoubtedly the charnel features had many other meanings to the people who used them, ones that leave no archaeologically identifiable traces.’
  • ‘Some say it was merely a charnel pit - a functional repository of massed human bone.’
  • ‘These charnel facilities consisted of a shallow limestone-lined pit, made from a single layer of horizontal slabs that were laid out on a prepared subsoil surface.’


  • Associated with death.

    ‘I gagged on the charnel stench of the place’
    • ‘A charnel stench filled the air and made them recoil in disgust.’
    • ‘It is argued, based on archaeological and ethnohistoric data, that the layout of the mound, burials, and charnel features is patterned after Native American notions of the cosmos.’
    • ‘The symbolic suitability of dark and dismal weather, however, is not the main reason Mary Shelley selected this particular month for the nativity of Victor's charnel creature.’
    • ‘Between them both sides lost half a million men and how many still lie buried in that charnel soil may never be known.’
    • ‘A foul odor of decaying flesh permeated the air of this subterranean charnel chamber.’


Late Middle English from Old French, from medieval Latin carnale, neuter (used as a noun) of carnalis ‘relating to flesh’ (see carnal).