10 Fleshy Words

By Maeve Maddox

Latin words meaning flesh and fleshly (carnis, carnalis), have given English several words, some of which refer to human flesh and some to the flesh of animals.

1. carnage noun: a heap of dead bodies, especially of men killed in battle.

The Anglo-Saxon poem “The Battle of Maldon” describes the carnage that ensues when the local militia confronts Viking raiders. The fates of several Anglo-Saxon warriors are depicted—notably that of Earl Byrhtnoth: he dies valiantly, urging his soldiers forward and commending his soul to God.

Carnage is also used in a non-military context to describe the bloody aftermath of any killing event:

Firefighters have described the carnage and confusion they found when they arrived on the scene of the Paddington rail crash in which 31 people died.

2. carnal adjective: pertaining to the body. In Medieval Latin, a frater carnalis was a biological brother. In modern usage, carnal refers to the sensual or sexual aspects of the body. The noun is carnality and the adverb is carnally.

Detectives charged the 27-year-old with felony carnal knowledge of a juvenile.

In religious thought, carnal is the opposite of spiritual.

A carnal mind is not necessarily a sinful mind. However, all sin is carnal. A carnal mind is simply a mind that is governed entirely by the senses.

3. carnation adjective: a light rosy pink; noun: a flower, scientific name Dianthus, which may be shades of pink or red. The plural carnations is used as an art term: “those parts in a painting that represent the naked skin.”

Vecelli observed that a colorist ought to manipulate white, black and red, and that the carnations cannot be done in a first painting, but by replicating various tints and mingling the colors.

4. carnelian noun: a flesh-colored, deep red, or reddish-white variety of chalcedony; adjective: of the color of a carnelian.

My stepmother was, if rather richly, always plainly dressed, in the sober Quaker mode; almost her only ornament was a large carnelian brooch, set in flowered flat gold.

5. carnival noun: originally, the medieval religious celebration preceding Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. The word derives from a phrase meaning “the putting away of flesh.” In modern usage, a carnival is any season of feasting, revelry, or indulgence. In North American English, a carnival is a fun fair with rides and entertainment booths.

6. carnivore noun: (Latin carnivorus, “flesh-eating”) A carnivore is an animal that eats only meat. People whose diet includes meat are often jokingly referred to as carnivores, in contrast to vegans and vegetarians.

My husband and children are carnivores, and yes, I do prepare their food for them.

7. carnivorous adjective: (Latin carni, “flesh” + vorus, “devouring”) The accent is on the second syllable.

Since neither humans nor chimpanzees are truly carnivorous—most traditional human societies eat a diet made up mostly of plant foods—we are considered omnivores.

Note: An omnivore feeds on a diet of both plant and animal origin.

8. charnel house noun: (Old French charnel) a house for dead bodies; a house or vault in which the bones of the dead are piled up.

Recently in the Orkney Isles in Scotland, a charnel house has revealed more than 1,000 human bones.

9. incarnation noun: the action of incarnating; the fact of being incarnated or “made flesh”

The Incarnation in traditional Christianity is the belief that the second person of the Trinity, also known as God the Son or the Logos (Word), “became flesh” by being conceived in the womb of Mary.

10. incarnate adjective: clothed or invested with flesh; embodied in flesh; in a human (or animal) bodily form.

Until the latter half of the T’ang dynasty, some emperors had even claimed to be the Buddha incarnate.

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2 Responses to “10 Fleshy Words”

  • Roberta B.

    Carnival – The word derives from a phrase meaning “the putting away of flesh”……………….as in the fasting from meat as Christians [according to traditional dogma] are supposed to do during Lent. It became an event of feasting and revelry because it’s the last chance for the next 6 weeks to indulge in that delicious pot roast, steak dinner, or other self gratifications.

  • thebluebird11

    This is why I love this site…I never gave any thought to the connections between these words, especially incarnate/incarnation, carnival and charnel (because it has that H in there). It seems a little loose in spots, with some of the words more heavily weighted to the body/physical (flesh) aspect, and others more toward the color aspect (carnation, carnelian).

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