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[kahr-nuh-vuh l] /ˈkɑr nə vəl/
a traveling amusement show, having sideshows, rides, etc.
any merrymaking, revelry, or festival, as a program of sports or entertainment:
a winter carnival.
the season immediately preceding Lent, often observed with merrymaking; Shrovetide.
Origin of carnival
1540-50; < Italian carnevale, Old Italian carnelevare taking meat away, equivalent to carne flesh (< Latin carnem, accusative of caro) + levare < Latin levāre to lift
Related forms
carnivalesque, carnivallike, adjective
precarnival, adjective
2. fair, celebration, fete, holiday. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for carnival
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • If many people went to the carnival they must have approached it from the other direction.

    Pee-wee Harris Percy Keese Fitzhugh
  • They say that you want to give your daughter in marriage to a someone in a carnival costume?

  • And you think you would like to go to the carnival Ball, hey?

    The First Violin Jessie Fothergill
  • When is the carnival, and when does this piece of tomfoolery come off?

    The First Violin Jessie Fothergill
  • It was Sunday, the first day of the carnival, and that devoted to the ball of the season.

    The First Violin Jessie Fothergill
British Dictionary definitions for carnival


  1. a festive occasion or period marked by merrymaking, processions, etc: esp in some Roman Catholic countries, the period just before Lent
  2. (as modifier): a carnival atmosphere
a travelling fair having merry-go-rounds, etc
a show or display arranged as an amusement
(Austral) a sports meeting
Word Origin
C16: from Italian carnevale, from Old Italian carnelevare a removing of meat (referring to the Lenten fast)
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for carnival

1540s, "time of merrymaking before Lent," from French carnaval, from Italian carnevale "Shrove Tuesday," from older Italian forms such as Milanese *carnelevale, Old Pisan carnelevare "to remove meat," literally "raising flesh," from Latin caro "flesh" (see carnage) + levare "lighten, raise, remove" (see lever (n.)). Folk etymology is from Medieval Latin carne vale " 'flesh, farewell!' " Meaning "a circus or fair" is attested by 1931 in North America.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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