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Cranium (braincase) with the eight bones of the human cranium labelled.
Cranium (upper portion of skull) of ancient Egyptian.


From Medieval Latin crānium (skull), from Ancient Greek κρᾱνίον (krāníon, skull).


  • enPR: krā'nē-əm, IPA(key): /ˈkɹeɪ.ni.əm/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -eɪniəm


cranium (plural craniums or crania)

  1. (anatomy) That part of the skull consisting of the bones enclosing the brain, but not including the bones of the face or jaw.
    Synonyms: braincase, neurocranium
    Hyponyms: calvarium, ethmoid, frontal, occipital, parietal, sphenoid
    • 1858, Henry Gray, “The Skull”, in Anatomy: Descriptive and Surgical, page 19:
      The Skull is divided into two parts, the Cranium and the Face. The Cranium is composed of eight bones; []
    • 1899 February, Joseph Conrad, “The Heart of Darkness”, in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, volume CLXV, number M, New York, N.Y.: The Leonard Scott Publishing Company, [], →OCLC, part I, page 201:
      ‘I always ask leave, in the interests of science, to measure the crania of those going out there,’ he said.
    • 1908, J. McFadyean, “Part I: Osteology and Arthrology”, in The Comparative Anatomy of the Domesticated Animals, page 165:
      The cranium of the fowl is composed of the same elements as are present in the mammalian cranium, save that there is no interparietal.
    • 2010, Elaine N. Marieb, Katja Hoehn, “Chapter 7 "The Skeleton"”, in Human Anatomy and Physiology, 8th edition, page 200:
      The cranial bones, or cranium (kra′ne-um), enclose and protect the fragile brain and furnish attachment sites for head and neck muscles.
  2. (anthropology, informal) The upper portion of the skull, including the neurocranium and facial bones, but not including the jawbone (mandible).
    • 2014, Emma L. Brown, Ronald A. Dixon, Jason W. Birkett, “The Discolouration of Human Teeth from Archaeological Contexts: Elemental Analysis of a Black Tooth from a Roman Cranium Recovered from the River Witham, Lincoln, UK”, in Journal of Anthropology, volume 2014, →DOI:
      In this study, the cranium recovered from the River Witham in Lincoln exhibited a black metallic staining on the surfaces of the teeth.
  3. (informal) Synonym of skull.

Derived terms[edit]






Earliest attestation c. 1190, from Ancient Greek κρᾱνίον (krāníon, upper part of the head, skull).



crānium n (genitive crāniī or crānī); second declension (Medieval Latin)

  1. (anatomy) skull
    Synonyms: calvāria, calva, testa


Second-declension noun (neuter).

Case Singular Plural
Nominative crānium crānia
Genitive crāniī
Dative crāniō crāniīs
Accusative crānium crānia
Ablative crāniō crāniīs
Vocative crānium crānia

1Found in older Latin (until the Augustan Age).

Derived terms[edit]