Word of the Day


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a lively festival in which people walk through the streets playing music, dancing, and often wearing unusual colourful clothes

Origin and usage

The word carnival was first used in English in the mid 16th century. It came from the Italian ‘carnevale’, which was seemingly derived from a medieval Latin word, ‘carnelevamen‘. The Latin literally refers to ‘putting away flesh’, a reference to the practice of abstaining from meat during Lent.


In the Christian calendar, the weeks running up to Easter are called ‘Lent’. They are marked by fasting, abstinence and penitence. In Catholic countries in particular, the period before Lent is a time of carnival, festivities that often involve processions with music, dancing and fancy dress. These carnival festivities culminate on Shrove Tuesday, also called Mardi Gras, the last day before Lent starts. In places like Trinidad, Rio, New Orleans and Venice this is a day of spectacular celebration, when people dressed in gorgeous costumes parade or dance through the streets. In the UK we eat pancakes.


“Everything being a constant carnival, there is no carnival left.”
(Victor Hugo)

Related words

corroboree, eisteddfod, festival

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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Macmillan Dictionary

Macmillan Dictionary

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