a small Spanish or Portuguese sailing vessel of the Middle Ages and later, usually lateen-rigged on two or three masts.
Also, carvel.

1520–30; < Middle French car(a)velle < Portuguese caravela, equivalent to cárav(o) kind of ship (< Late Latin carabus a small wicker boat < Greek kárabos skiff, crayfish) + -ela diminutive suffix Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
caravel or carvel (ˈkærəˌvɛl)
a two- or three-masted sailing ship, esp one with a broad beam, high poop deck, and lateen rig that was used by the Spanish and Portuguese in the 15th and 16th centuries
[C16: from Portuguese caravela, diminutive of caravo ship, ultimately from Greek karabos crab, horned beetle]
carvel or carvel
[C16: from Portuguese caravela, diminutive of caravo ship, ultimately from Greek karabos crab, horned beetle]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin & History

1527, from M.Fr. caravelle, from Port. caravela dim. of caravo "small vessel," from L.L. carabus "small wicker boat covered with leather," from Gk. karabos, lit. "beetle, lobster."
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Encyclopedia Britannica


a light sailing ship of the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries in Europe, much-used by the Spanish and Portuguese for long voyages. Apparently developed by the Portuguese for exploring the coast of Africa, the caravel's chief excellence lay in its capacity for sailing to windward. It was also capable of remarkable speed. Two of the three ships in which Christopher Columbus made his historic voyage in 1492 were caravels, the Nina and the Pinta.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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Example sentences
From the caravel to the cotton gin, technological innovation has made things worse for blacks.
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