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See more synonyms for cairn on Thesaurus.com
  1. a heap of stones set up as a landmark, monument, tombstone, etc.
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Also carn.

Origin of cairn

1525–35; earlier carn < Scots Gaelic: pile of stones; perhaps akin to horn
Related formscairned, adjectivecairn·y, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for cairn

Historical Examples

  • Clawbonny and Bell walked to the cairn with picks in their hands.

    The Voyages and Adventures of Captain Hatteras

    Jules Verne

  • Clawbonny and Bell, armed with their pickaxes made for the cairn.

  • He would begin to-morrow with the cairn for the rock-plants.


    Harriet Martineau

  • In a cairn on the point Fitzjames placed a brief record, and that is all.

    Notable Voyagers

    W.H.G. Kingston and Henry Frith

  • The remainder pushed on to Cape Herschel, and left a record in a cairn.

    Notable Voyagers

    W.H.G. Kingston and Henry Frith

British Dictionary definitions for cairn


  1. a mound of stones erected as a memorial or marker
  2. Also called: cairn terrier a small rough-haired breed of terrier originally from Scotland
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Word Origin

C15: from Gaelic carn
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 cairn


1530s, from Scottish carne, from Gaelic carn "heap of stones, rocky hill," akin to Gaulish karnon "horn," from PIE root *ker-n- "highest part of the body, horn," thus "tip, peak" (see horn (n.)).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper