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

Origin of carnival

1540–50; < Italian carnevale, Old Italian carnelevare taking meat away, equivalent to carne flesh (< Latin carnem, accusative of caro) + levare < Latin levāre to lift
Related formscar·ni·val·esque, car·ni·val·like, adjectivepre·car·ni·val, adjective

Synonyms for carnival

See more synonyms for on Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for carnival

Contemporary Examples of carnival

Historical Examples of carnival

  • If many people went to the carnival they must have approached it from the other direction.

    Pee-wee Harris

    Percy Keese Fitzhugh

  • They say that you want to give your daughter in marriage to a someone in a Carnival costume?

  • When is the carnival, and when does this piece of tomfoolery come off?

    The First Violin

    Jessie Fothergill

  • And you think you would like to go to the Carnival Ball, hey?

    The First Violin

    Jessie Fothergill

  • It was Sunday, the first day of the carnival, and that devoted to the ball of the season.

    The First Violin

    Jessie Fothergill

British Dictionary definitions for carnival


    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. Australian a sports meeting

Word Origin for carnival

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

1540s, "time of merrymaking before Lent," from French carnaval, from Italian carnevale "Shrove Tuesday," from older Italian forms such as Milanese *carnelevale, Old Pisan carnelevare "to remove meat," literally "raising flesh," from Latin caro "flesh" (see carnage) + levare "lighten, raise, remove" (see lever (n.)). Folk etymology is from Medieval Latin carne vale " 'flesh, farewell!' " Meaning "a circus or fair" is attested by 1931 in North America.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper