View synonyms for carnival


[ kahr-nuh-vuhl ]


  1. a traveling amusement show, having sideshows, rides, etc.
  2. any merrymaking, revelry, or festival, as a program of sports or entertainment:

    a winter carnival.

    Synonyms: holiday, fete, celebration, fair

  3. the season immediately preceding Lent, often observed with merrymaking; Shrovetide.


/ ˈkɑːnɪvəl /


    1. a festive occasion or period marked by merrymaking, processions, etc: esp in some Roman Catholic countries, the period just before Lent
    2. ( as modifier )

      a carnival atmosphere

  1. a travelling fair having merry-go-rounds, etc
  2. a show or display arranged as an amusement
  3. a sports meeting

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Other Words From

  • carni·val·esque carni·val·like adjective
  • pre·carni·val adjective

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Word History and Origins

Origin of carnival1

1540–50; < Italian carnevale, Old Italian carnelevare taking meat away, equivalent to carne flesh (< Latin carnem, accusative of caro ) + levare < Latin levāre to lift

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Word History and Origins

Origin of carnival1

C16: from Italian carnevale, from Old Italian carnelevare a removing of meat (referring to the Lenten fast)

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Compare Meanings

How does carnival compare to similar and commonly confused words? Explore the most common comparisons:

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Example Sentences

On the HBO show Euphoria, Alexa Demie’s character, Maddy Perez, wore a pair of bright purple pants with slits cut on the side to a carnival.

From Vox

“So far, Liberty has not agreed to any particular plan or contract,” the statement said, going on to add that the school would rent its parking areas to any political party if asked, as it has done in the past for carnivals, circuses and car shows.

They likened the barriers to hockey penalty boxes or a carnival funhouse.

A simple but effective analogy is to imagine the carnival game where balls are dropped onto a vertical board covered in wooden pegs.

There are fireworks, barbecues, carnivals, parades, and a whole slew of activities.

Lupher says the Carnival Magic tried to land in Cozumel, but that the Mexican authorities blocked them from the dock.

People aboard the Carnival Magic have another day and a half at sea before they reach Galveston, Texas.

Dispensable human warmth is enough of a sell, even without the dolls and magical pictures on sale at her traveling carnival.

For those who did show up, the event resembled a political carnival.

Was the hammer scene, for you, like that strength game at the carnival where you hit the block with the hammer?

At two o'clock, the general of the Carnival opens the public ball with the Mugnaia.

If you wanted to let her go you did so; if not, you talked in the squeaky voice that is the recognized etiquette of the carnival.

If the work goes well I shall try to arrange for you both to come here in the Carnival Week, so that you may hear it.

The Turkish lines stretched away to his left; he had cleared their flank, and the battle raged in its mad carnival behind him.

The story goes that one night during the carnival he was wounded by some masqueraders, who mistook him for another person.


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More About Carnival

What is Carnival?

Carnival, with a capital C, refers to the multiple-day period of merrymaking before the start of Lent. It is especially associated with the massive street festival held annually in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, which is famous for its big parades, ornate costumes, and samba dancing.

Carnival is also celebrated in many other countries, especially those with large Catholic populations, including Italy, Spain, France, and Germany (where it is called Fasching).

The equivalent pre-Lent celebration in the U.S. (especially New Orleans) and some other places is known as Mardi Gras.

In religious contexts, the three-day period before Lent is known as Shrovetide. Carnival is part of a tradition of indulging before the Lenten fast, but it is not a Christian holiday.

Carnival is also sometimes spelled Carnaval.

When is Carnival?

Carnival takes place during the days preceding Ash Wednesday, which is the first day of Lent. The length and start date of Carnival vary from place to place. The timing of the festival varies from year to year due to Easter having a variable date.

In 2024, Carnival festivities in Rio begin on Friday, February 9 and end Saturday, February 17. In 2025, it is scheduled to start on February 28.

Where does Carnival come from?

The more general sense of carnival referring to an amusement fair comes from the capital C sense of Carnival. The first use of Carnival in English, dating to the 1540s, was as the name of the pre-Lent festival. It comes from the Old Italian word carnelevare, meaning “taking meat away,” from carne, “flesh,” and the Latin levāre, “to lift.” The name is a reference to the traditional practice of abstaining from meat during Lent.

Carnival was first celebrated in Europe. It was brought to Brazil by the Portuguese. Though initially based on European customs, Carnival in Rio incorporates many traditions from Indigenous Brazilians as well as those passed down from enslaved African Peoples.

What are some terms that often get used in discussing Carnival?

How is Carnival discussed in real life?

Carnival is especially associated with the massive street festival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, which features huge parades and lavish costumes.


Try using Carnival!

True or False?

Carnival takes place immediately after Lent.

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