[kan-uh-buh-liz-uh m]
  1. the eating of human flesh by another human being.
  2. the eating of the flesh of an animal by another animal of its own kind.
  3. the ceremonial eating of human flesh or parts of the human body for magical or religious purposes, as to acquire the power or skill of a person recently killed.
  4. the act of pecking flesh from a live fowl by a member of the same flock.
  5. the removal of parts, equipment, assets, or employees from one product, item, or business in order to use them in another.
  6. the acquisition and absorption of smaller companies by a large corporation or conglomerate.

Origin of cannibalism

First recorded in 1790–1800; cannibal + -ism
Related formscan·ni·bal·is·tic, adjectivecan·ni·bal·is·ti·cal·ly, adverbnon·can·ni·bal·is·tic, adjectivenon·can·ni·bal·is·ti·cal·ly, adverb Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for cannibalism

Contemporary Examples of cannibalism

Historical Examples of cannibalism

  • Real philanthropy is as inconsistent with exploitation as with cannibalism.


    Theodor Hertzka

  • Cannibalism was regarded by them with horror and detestation.

    The Hawaiian Islands

    The Department of Foreign Affairs

  • The population was largely Carib, a savage race given to cannibalism.

    Plotting in Pirate Seas

    Francis Rolt-Wheeler

  • After a stormy but courageous career he died in 1691, innocent of cannibalism.

  • This case shows that the horror of cannibalism is due to tradition in the mores.


    William Graham Sumner

British Dictionary definitions for cannibalism


  1. the act of eating human flesh or the flesh of one's own kind
  2. savage and inhuman cruelty
Derived Formscannibalistic, adjectivecannibalistically, adverb
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 cannibalism

1796, from cannibal + -ism. Perhaps from French cannibalisme, from the same year.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper