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Borrowed from Spanish caníbal, from Taíno caniba, the Taíno form recorded by Christopher Columbus for the Caribs, who were greatly feared. From an Arawakan language, probably Taíno, and ultimately from Proto-Cariban *karipona (person). Doublet of Carib, caribe, Garifuna, Carijona, and Kari'na.


  • IPA(key): /ˈkænɪbəl/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ænɪbəl


cannibal (plural cannibals)

  1. An organism which eats others of its own species or kind, especially a human who eats human flesh.
    • 1845, Journal of Researches Into the Natural History and Geology of the Countries Visited During the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle round the World, page 204:
      These insects were not uncommon beneath stones. I found one cannibal scorpion quietly devouring another.
    • 1886 October – 1887 January, H[enry] Rider Haggard, She: A History of Adventure, London: Longmans, Green, and Co., published 1887, →OCLC:
      Up the cave I went, and after me came the others, and after them thundered the whole crowd of cannibals, mad with fury at the death of the woman.
    • 1908, James William Tutt, A natural history of the British Lepidoptera: a text-book for students and collectors, page 65:
      [...] that the larvae of Thecla calanus is a cannibal, eating its weaker brethren when short of food.
    • 1995, Kathleen O'Neal Gear, W. Michael Gear, People of the Lakes, Macmillan, →ISBN:
      His expression slack, Green Spider methodically pried out another clod and swallowed it. “I'm a cannibal. Eating the Earth Mother. Chewing the flesh from her bones. Cannibal ... cannibal ... cannibal!” Otter tried to shake off his discomfort, ...


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