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From Latin carnifex (butcher).


carnifex (plural carnifexes or carnifices)

  1. (now rare, historical) An executioner.
    • 1831, Walter Scott, Fortunes of Nigel:
      “[T]he carnifex, or executioner there, is brandishing his gulley ower near the King's face, seeing he is within reach of his weapon.”
    • 1980, Gene Wolfe, chapter XIII, in The Shadow of the Torturer (The Book of the New Sun; 1), New York: Simon & Schuster, →ISBN, page 123:
      ‘Lesser places have no more than a carnifex, who takes life and performs such excruciations as the judicators there decree.’
    • 2013, Geoffrey Hill, Broken Hierarchies: Poems 1952–2012, Oxford University Press, →OCLC, page 535:
      Vorónezh: Ovid thrusts abruptly wide / the ice-locked shutters, discommodes his lyre / to Caesar's harbingers. Interrogation, / whatever is most feared. Truth's fatal vogue, / sad carnifex, self-styled of blood and wax.


Alternative forms[edit]


From carō (flesh) +‎ -fex (maker).



carnifex m (genitive carnificis); third declension

  1. butcher, knacker (one who slaughters and renders worn-out livestock)[1]
    Synonyms: laniātor, lanius, laniō, macellārius
  2. executioner, hangman
  3. tormenter, murderer
  4. scoundrel, villain


Third-declension noun.

Case Singular Plural
Nominative carnifex carnificēs
Genitive carnificis carnificum
Dative carnificī carnificibus
Accusative carnificem carnificēs
Ablative carnifice carnificibus
Vocative carnifex carnificēs

Derived terms[edit]


  • English: carnifex
  • Italian: carnefice
  • Portuguese: carnífice
  • Spanish: carnífice


Further reading[edit]

  • carnifex”, in Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short (1879) A Latin Dictionary, Oxford: Clarendon Press
  • carnifex”, in Charlton T. Lewis (1891) An Elementary Latin Dictionary, New York: Harper & Brothers
  • carnifex in Charles du Fresne du Cange’s Glossarium Mediæ et Infimæ Latinitatis (augmented edition with additions by D. P. Carpenterius, Adelungius and others, edited by Léopold Favre, 1883–1887)
  • carnifex in Gaffiot, Félix (1934) Dictionnaire illustré latin-français, Hachette
  • carnifex”, in William Smith et al., editor (1890) A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, London: William Wayte. G. E. Marindin