1. pertaining to or characterized by the flesh or the body, its passions and appetites; sensual: carnal pleasures.
  2. not spiritual; merely human; temporal; worldly: a man of secular, rather carnal, leanings.

Origin of carnal

1350–1400; Middle English < Latin carnālis, equivalent to carn- (stem of carō) flesh + -ālis -al1
Related formscar·nal·i·ty, car·nal·ness, car·nal·ism, nouncar·nal·ly, adverbhy·per·car·nal, adjectivehy·per·car·nal·ly, adverb

Synonyms for carnal

Synonym study

1. Carnal, sensual, fleshly, animal all refer to bodily rather than rational or spiritual aspects of humans. Carnal, although it may refer to the body as opposed to the spirit, often refers to sexual needs or urges: carnal cravings, attractions, satisfactions. Sensual implies a suggestion of eroticism: sensual eyes; a sensual dance; it may also refer to experience of the senses: a sensual delight. Fleshly may refer to any physical need or appetite, sex as well as hunger and thirst: the fleshly sin of gluttony; fleshly yearnings. Animal refers to sexual appetites in a censorious way only; it may also describe pleasing or admirable physical characteristics or appearance: animal lust; to move with animal grace. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for carnally

Contemporary Examples of carnally

Historical Examples of carnally

  • To be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.

    Italy, the Magic Land

    Lilian Whiting

  • Both were, at least carnally, children of Israel: they spoke Hebrew to the Hebrews.


    Benjamin Disraeli

  • Prima facie, I put it to you that there was no attempt at carnally knowing.


    James Joyce

  • "Mr. Graham is treasurer for the sawmill," Carnally explained.

    For the Allinson Honor

    Harold Bindloss

  • "I guess there's some foundation for that," Carnally said pointedly.

    For the Allinson Honor

    Harold Bindloss

British Dictionary definitions for carnally


  1. relating to the appetites and passions of the body; sensual; fleshly
Derived Formscarnalist, nouncarnality, nouncarnally, adverb

Word Origin for carnal

C15: from Late Latin: relating to flesh, from Latin carō flesh
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 carnally

late 15c., "sexually;" 1530s, "corporeally," from carnal + -ly (2).



c.1400, "physical, human, mortal," from Old French carnal and directly from Medieval Latin carnalis "natural, of the same blood," from Latin carnis "of the flesh," genitive of caro "flesh, meat" (see carnage). Meaning "sensual" is from early 15c.; that of "worldly, sinful" is from mid-15c. Carnal knowledge is attested from early 15c. and was in legal use by 1680s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper