• synonyms


  1. a small Spanish or Portuguese sailing vessel of the Middle Ages and later, usually lateen-rigged on two or three masts.
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Also carvel.

Origin of caravel

1520–30; < Middle French car(a)velle < Portuguese caravela, equivalent to cárav(o) kind of ship (< Late Latin carabus a small wicker boat < Greek kárabos skiff, crayfish) + -ela diminutive suffix
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for caravel

Historical Examples

  • Now they lower something in black over the side of the first caravel.

    The Rock of Chickamauga

    Joseph A. Altsheler

  • In spite of his seamanship, the caravel was wrecked on the island of Cuba.

  • Don Diego was seized, thrown into irons, and confined on board a caravel.

    Notable Voyagers

    W.H.G. Kingston and Henry Frith

  • They insisted on embarking in the caravel and following Columbus.

    Notable Voyagers

    W.H.G. Kingston and Henry Frith

  • Every caravel that came from the New World brought two things.

British Dictionary definitions for caravel



  1. a two- or three-masted sailing ship, esp one with a broad beam, high poop deck, and lateen rig that was used by the Spanish and Portuguese in the 15th and 16th centuries
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Word Origin

C16: from Portuguese caravela, diminutive of caravo ship, ultimately from Greek karabos crab, horned beetle
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 caravel


1520s, from Middle French caravelle (15c.), from Spanish carabela or Portuguese caravela, diminutive of caravo "small vessel," from Late Latin carabus "small wicker boat covered with leather," from Greek karabos, literally "beetle, lobster" (see scarab). Earlier form carvel (early 15c.) survives in carvel-built (adj.).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper