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[kan-uh-buh l] /ˈkæn ə bəl/
a person who eats human flesh, especially for magical or religious purposes, as among certain tribal peoples.
any animal that eats its own kind.
pertaining to or characteristic of a cannibal.
given to cannibalism.
1545-55; < Spanish caníbal, variant of caríbal, equivalent to canib-, carib- (< Arawak) + -al -al1; from the belief that the Caribs of the West Indies ate human flesh
Related forms
cannibally, adverb Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples from the web for cannibals
  • They must avoid cannibals and scavenge food from abandoned houses and stores.
  • Apparently they believed that these missionaries were cannibals who had dropped in from the sky to consume them.
  • We've taken a big risk by turning ruminants into unwitting cannibals and carnivores.
  • Wounded crickets can attract other crickets foraging for protein and salt-and the healthy crickets are happy to become cannibals.
  • In the first experiment, the researchers placed the males on the females' webs while the cannibals were absent.
  • They brought better farming technology, and they also tended to shoot cannibals.
  • cannibals that drain life from other stars have been discovered for the first time in the heart of our galaxy, new research shows.
  • Three cannibals and three missionaries are on a riverbank.
  • At no time can there be more cannibals than missionaries on either side of the river.
British Dictionary definitions for cannibals


  1. a person who eats the flesh of other human beings
  2. (as modifier): cannibal tribes
an animal that feeds on the flesh of others of its kind
Word Origin
C16: from Spanish Canibales, name used by Columbus to designate the Caribs of Cuba and Haiti, from Arawak caniba, variant of Carib
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for cannibals



"human that eats human flesh," 1550s, from Spanish canibal, caribal "a savage, cannibal," from Caniba, Christopher Columbus' rendition of the Caribs' name for themselves (see Caribbean). The natives were believed to be anthropophagites. Columbus, seeking evidence that he was in Asia, thought the name meant the natives were subjects of the Great Khan. Shakespeare's Caliban (in "The Tempest") is from a version of this word, with -n- and -l- interchanged, found in Hakluyt's "Voyages" (1599). The Spanish word had reached French by 1515. Used of animals from 1796. An Old English word for "cannibal" was selfæta.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for cannibals



Do you understand?: All right, class, that's all there is to it. Capeesh?/I owe it all to you. Strip Dealers School, capiche?/Sam fixed me with a pair of very cold eyes. ''Capish?'' he said


I understand: Ten tonight? Capeesh.

[1940s+; fr Italian capisci, ''Do you understand?'']

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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