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See more synonyms for Cairns on Thesaurus.com
  1. a seaport in NE Australia.
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  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 for cairns

ceremony, tombstone, statue, remembrance, headstone, plaque, mausoleum, stone, tablet, masterpiece, slab, pillar, testament, shrine, tomb, tribute, gravestone, marker, stele, monolith

Examples from the Web for cairns

Historical Examples of cairns

  • There was not a trace of houses, or huts, or cairns visible.

    The Field of Ice

    Jules Verne

  • The doctor kept a sharp lookout for other cairns, but in vain.

  • Posted all along the platform with General Cairns in the most prominent place.

  • The doctor looked carefully round for other cairns, but in vain.

  • By what name we call them, “towers,” or “cairns,” is indifferent to me.

British Dictionary definitions for cairns


  1. a port in NE Australia, in Queensland. Pop: 98 981 (2001)
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  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 for cairn

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 cairns



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