[skal-puh l]


a small, light, usually straight knife used in surgical and anatomical operations and dissections.

Origin of scalpel

1735–45; < Latin scalpellum, diminutive of scalprum tool for scraping or paring (derivative of scalpere to scratch); for formation see castellum
Related formsscal·pel·lic [skal-pel-ik] /skælˈpɛl ɪk/, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for scalpel

Contemporary Examples of scalpel

Historical Examples of scalpel

  • Lift edges of the skin and peel from flesh with a sharp knife or scalpel.


    Leon Luther Pray

  • "Wait," said Sanchez, lifting the scalpel and tilting his head.


    Charles Louis Fontenay

  • Even if we had Sainte-Beuve's scalpel, we could not surprise the secret.

  • Fred, my son, bend over him with those bandages and that scalpel.

    In the Mahdi's Grasp

    George Manville Fenn

  • Behold, Vitangela, how the scalpel hews that form so loved by thee!

    Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf

    George W. M. Reynolds

British Dictionary definitions for scalpel



a surgical knife with a short thin blade
Derived Formsscalpellic (skælˈpɛlɪk), adjective

Word Origin for scalpel

C18: from Latin scalpellum, from scalper a knife, from scalpere to scrape
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 scalpel

1742, from Latin scalpellum "a surgical knife," diminutive of scalprum "knife, chisel, tool for scraping or cutting," from scalpere "to carve, cut," related to sculpere "to carve," from PIE root *(s)kel- "to cut, cleave" (see scale (n.1)).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

scalpel in Medicine




A small straight knife with a thin sharp blade used in surgery and dissection.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.