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[dohl-men, -muh n, dol-] /ˈdoʊl mɛn, -mən, ˈdɒl-/
noun, Archaeology
a structure usually regarded as a tomb, consisting of two or more large, upright stones set with a space between and capped by a horizontal stone.
Also called portal tomb.
Compare chamber tomb.
Origin of dolmen
1855-60; < French < Cornish, lenited form of tolmen hole of stone (taken by French archeologists to mean cromlech)
Related forms
[dohl-men-ik, dol-] /doʊlˈmɛn ɪk, dɒl-/ (Show IPA),
adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for dolmen
Historical Examples
  • Where the stones are arranged in a “cromlech” or circular form, there is generally a dolmen in the centre.

    The Student's Mythology Catherine Ann White
  • There is a rude circle of menhirs at the site, with a trilithon or dolmen on one side.

    Palestine Claude Reignier Conder
  • A brown shadow moved in the bracken near the dolmen, a brown face peered with infinite caution, round a flank of the great stones.

    Mount Music E. Oe. Somerville and Martin Ross
  • For this he needs an outlet issuing near the Fairies' dolmen.

    The Secret of Sarek Maurice Leblanc
  • Yes, we make a strange discovery, my friends and I: we find a woman prowling round the dolmen, who hides as we come up.

    The Secret of Sarek Maurice Leblanc
  • From words that escaped him while he was sleeping under the Fairies' dolmen.

    The Secret of Sarek Maurice Leblanc
  • The church is laid out like a dolmen, and the towers are the menhirs.

  • The moon-worshipper did no worse when he led the chosen victim to the dolmen.

  • A dolmen is a monument consisting of several perpendicular stones covered with a great block or slab.

  • The dolmen, or table of rock, is formed of a long stone laid flat over other stones set in the ground.

British Dictionary definitions for dolmen


(in British archaeology) a Neolithic stone formation, consisting of a horizontal stone supported by several vertical stones, and thought to be a tomb
(in French archaeology) any megalithic tomb
Word Origin
C19: from French, probably from Old Breton tol table, from Latin tabula board + Breton mēn stone, of Celtic origin; see table
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 dolmen

1859, from French dolmin applied 1796 by French general and antiquarian Théophile Malo Corret de La Tour d'Auvergne (1743-1800), perhaps from Cornish tolmen "enormous stone slab set up on supporting points," such that a man may walk under it, literally "hole of stone," from Celtic men "stone."

Some suggest the first element may be Breton taol "table," a loan-word from Latin tabula "board, plank," but the Breton form of this compound would be taolvean. "There is reason to think that this [tolmen] is the word inexactly reproduced by Latour d'Auvergne as dolmin, and misapplied by him and succeeding French archaeologists to the cromlech" [OED]. See cromlech, which is properly an upright flat stone, often arranged as one of a circle.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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