[ kan-uh-buh l ]
/ ˈkæn ə bəl /


a person who eats human flesh, especially for magical or religious purposes, as among certain tribal peoples.
any animal that eats its own kind.


pertaining to or characteristic of a cannibal.
given to cannibalism.

Nearby words

  1. cannelure,
  2. canner,
  3. cannery,
  4. cannes,
  5. cannetille,
  6. cannibalism,
  7. cannibalistic,
  8. cannibalization,
  9. cannibalize,
  10. cannikin

Origin of cannibal

1545–55; < Spanish caníbal, variant of caríbal, equivalent to canib-, carib- (< Arawak) + -al -al1; from the belief that the Caribs of the West Indies ate human flesh

Related formscan·ni·bal·ly, adverb Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for cannibal

British Dictionary definitions for cannibal


/ (ˈkænɪbəl) /


  1. a person who eats the flesh of other human beings
  2. (as modifier)cannibal tribes
an animal that feeds on the flesh of others of its kind

Word Origin for cannibal

C16: from Spanish Canibales, name used by Columbus to designate the Caribs of Cuba and Haiti, from Arawak caniba, variant of Carib

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 cannibal



"human that eats human flesh," 1550s, from Spanish canibal, caribal "a savage, cannibal," from Caniba, Christopher Columbus' rendition of the Caribs' name for themselves (see Caribbean). The natives were believed to be anthropophagites. Columbus, seeking evidence that he was in Asia, thought the name meant the natives were subjects of the Great Khan. Shakespeare's Caliban (in "The Tempest") is from a version of this word, with -n- and -l- interchanged, found in Hakluyt's "Voyages" (1599). The Spanish word had reached French by 1515. Used of animals from 1796. An Old English word for "cannibal" was selfæta.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper