[ kawr-per-uhl, -pruhl ]
/ ˈkɔr pər əl, -prəl /
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of the human body; bodily; physical: corporal suffering.
Zoology. of the body proper, as distinguished from the head and limbs.
personal: corporal possession.
Obsolete. corporeal; belonging to the material world.
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Origin of corporal

First recorded in 1350–1400; Middle English corporal, corporel, from Old French corporal and Latin corporālem, from corporālis “bodily, physical,” equivalent to corpor- (stem of corpus “body” (alive or dead) + -ālis adjective ending; see -al1

synonym study for corporal

1. See physical.


cor·po·ral·i·ty, nouncor·po·ral·ly, adverb

Other definitions for corporal (2 of 3)

[ kawr-per-uhl, -pruhl ]
/ ˈkɔr pər əl, -prəl /

noun Military.
  1. a noncommissioned officer ranking above a private first class in the U.S. Army or lance corporal in the Marines and below a sergeant.
  2. a similar rank in the armed services of other countries.
Corporal, a U.S. surface-to-surface, single-stage ballistic missile.

Origin of corporal

First recorded in 1570–80; from Middle French corporal, variant of cap(p)oral (influenced by adjective corporal “bodily”), from Italian caporale, apparently a contraction of the phrase capo corporale “corporal head, bodily head” that is, head of a body (of soldiers); See caput, corporal1


cor·po·ral·cy, cor·po·ral·ship, noun

Other definitions for corporal (3 of 3)

[ kawr-per-uhl, -pruhl ]
/ ˈkɔr pər əl, -prəl /

noun Ecclesiastical.
a fine cloth, usually of linen, on which the consecrated elements in the Eucharist are placed or with which they are covered.
Also called communion cloth .

Origin of corporal

First recorded in 1350–1400; Middle English corporal(le), from Medieval Latin corporālis (palla), corporāle (pallium) “eucharistic (altar cloth)”; replacing earlier corporas, corporaus, from Old French corporaus, corporals, from Latin corporālis (palla), as above; see also pall1, pallium
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does corporal mean?

Corporal means physical, or relating to the physical body.

Sometimes, corporal is about the body specifically- like corporal suffering, or bodily pain. Other times, corporal simply refers to something you are able to touch, like a corporal, or tangible, possession.

While it is frowned upon now, many schools in the United States used to use hitting, spanking, or other forms of corporal punishment to discipline students.

Where does corporal come from?

The first records of corporal come from around 1350. It comes from the Latin corporalis, meaning “bodily.”

There are a few specialized applications of corporal as well. A communion cloth, or the fine linen cloth which Catholic priests place consecrated holy objects on top of or underneath, is sometimes called a corporal. And a corporal is also a name for a military rank– in the U.S., it’s above a private and below a sergeant.

Did you know … ?

What are some other forms related to corporal?

What are some synonyms for corporal?

What are some words that share a root or word element with corporal?

What are some words that often get used in discussing corporal?

What are some words corporal may be commonly confused with?

How is corporal used in real life?

People might use corporal to refer to officers, physical punishment, or other things they can touch. Sometimes corporal is used in a religious sense, where corporal things are a part of this life or our time on Earth, and otherworldly or saintly things are to come.



Try using corporal!

Which of the following is not corporal?

A. The brain
B. The body
C. The soul
D. The heart

How to use corporal in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for corporal (1 of 3)

/ (ˈkɔːpərəl, -prəl) /

of or relating to the body; bodily
an obsolete word for corporeal

Derived forms of corporal

corporality, nouncorporally, adverb

Word Origin for corporal

C14: from Latin corporālis of the body, from corpus body

British Dictionary definitions for corporal (2 of 3)

/ (ˈkɔːpərəl, -prəl) /

a noncommissioned officer junior to a sergeant in the army, air force, or marines
(in the Royal Navy) a petty officer who assists the master-at-arms

Derived forms of corporal

corporalship, noun

Word Origin for corporal

C16: from Old French, via Italian, from Latin caput head; perhaps also influenced in Old French by corps body (of men)

British Dictionary definitions for corporal (3 of 3)


corporale (ˌkɔːpəˈreɪlɪ)

/ (ˈkɔːpərəl, -prəl) /

a white linen cloth on which the bread and wine are placed during the Eucharist

Word Origin for corporal

C14: from Medieval Latin corporāle pallium eucharistic altar cloth, from Latin corporālis belonging to the body, from corpus body (of Christ)
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