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[dohl-men, -muh n, dol-]
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noun Archaeology.
  1. a structure usually regarded as a tomb, consisting of two or more large, upright stones set with a space between and capped by a horizontal stone.
Compare chamber tomb.

Origin of dolmen

1855–60; < French < Cornish, lenited form of tolmen hole of stone (taken by French archeologists to mean cromlech)
Also called portal tomb.
Related formsdol·men·ic [dohl-men-ik, dol-] /doʊlˈmɛn ɪk, dɒl-/, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for dolmen

Historical Examples

  • The church is laid out like a dolmen, and the towers are the menhirs.

    Rodin: The Man and his Art

    Judith Cladel

  • There is a rude circle of menhirs at the site, with a trilithon or dolmen on one side.


    Claude Reignier Conder

  • And on each of these mountains we found groups of dolmen still standing.


    Claude Reignier Conder

  • For this he needs an outlet issuing near the Fairies' Dolmen.

  • From words that escaped him while he was sleeping under the Fairies' Dolmen.

British Dictionary definitions for dolmen


  1. (in British archaeology) a Neolithic stone formation, consisting of a horizontal stone supported by several vertical stones, and thought to be a tomb
  2. (in French archaeology) any megalithic tomb

Word Origin

C19: from French, probably from Old Breton tol table, from Latin tabula board + Breton mēn stone, of Celtic origin; see table
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

Word Origin and History for dolmen


1859, from French dolmin applied 1796 by French general and antiquarian Théophile Malo Corret de La Tour d'Auvergne (1743-1800), perhaps from Cornish tolmen "enormous stone slab set up on supporting points," such that a man may walk under it, literally "hole of stone," from Celtic men "stone."

Some suggest the first element may be Breton taol "table," a loan-word from Latin tabula "board, plank," but the Breton form of this compound would be taolvean. "There is reason to think that this [tolmen] is the word inexactly reproduced by Latour d'Auvergne as dolmin, and misapplied by him and succeeding French archaeologists to the cromlech" [OED]. See cromlech, which is properly an upright flat stone, often arranged as one of a circle.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

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