Student Dictionary

One entry found for cannibal.
Main Entry: can·ni·bal
Pronunciation: primarystresskan-schwa-bschwal
Function: noun
Etymology: from New Latin Canibalis "Carib," from Spanish Caníbal (same meaning), from Taino (American Indian language of the Greater Antilles) Caniba (same meaning), of Carib origin
: a human being or an animal that eats its own kind
Word History On Christopher Columbus's first voyage to the New World the American Indian peoples whom he encountered in Cuba and Hispaniola told him about a people living to their east, who periodically raided them and whom they greatly feared. In his log Columbus recorded a number of phonetically similar names for this people, including caníbales and caribes. The Spanish court historian Petrus Martyr wrote a Latin account of Columbus's discoveries, first printed in 1516, that used these two words and widely distributed them throughout Europe. In Petrus Martyr's words, "the inhabitants of these islands assert that the Canibales or Caribes are eaters of human flesh." Subsequently, the meaning of the two words diverged. Caribes was applied to the Carib-speaking peoples of the Lesser Antilles and South America who were so feared by their neighbors; it is also ultimately the base of the word Caribbean. Canibales, on the other hand, passed into English as a generic word for any creature that eats the flesh of its own kind.

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