Word Confusion: Mantel versus Mantle

Posted April 4, 2016 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

The question of mantel versus mantle came up in a book I was editing, and I found myself questioning which was which. As usual, one of the words is a variant on the other and can be used in either situation…if you’re writing about a fireplace!

Anything else will use mantle.

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end. Consider sharing this Word Confusion with friends by tweeting it.

Mantel Mantle
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Dictionary.com: mantel and mantle


Image courtesy of Sean Pathasema/Birmingham Museum of Art [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

A fancy mantel for someone’s fireplace.

A 1918 sketch by Michael Il Tabarro of a mantle

Image of Sailko’s own work [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons in keeping with the GFDL

It’s quite a festive lining for this mantle.

Part of Grammar:

A variant of mantle

Noun; Verb, intransitive & transitive

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: mantles
Past tense or past participle: mantled
Gerund or present participle: mantling

A wood or stone construction framing the opening of a fireplace and usually covering part of the chimney breast in a more or less decorative manner

  • A beam, stone, or arch serving as a lintel to support the masonry above a fireplace
  • The finish around a fireplace

A shelf above a fireplace opening

A loose sleeveless cloak or shawl, worn especially by women

  • A covering of a specified sort
  • [Zoology] A single or paired outgrowth of the body wall that lines the inner surface of the valves of the shell in mollusks and brachiopods
  • A chemically prepared, incombustible network hood for a gas jet, kerosene wick, etc., that, when the jet or wick is lighted, becomes incandescent and gives off a brilliant light
  • [Ornithology] The back, scapular, and inner wing plumage, especially when of the same color and distinct from other plumage
  • An important role or responsibility that passes from one person to another
  • [Medicine] A covering layer of tissue

[Geology] The portion of the earth, about 1800 miles (2900 km) thick, between the crust and the core

Verb, intransitive:
[Literary] Clothe in or as if in a mantle

  • [Of the face] Glow with a blush
  • [Archaic; of a liquid] Become covered with a head or froth

[Of a bird of prey on the ground or on a perch] Spread the wings and tail, especially so as to cover captured prey

Verb, transitive:
[Literary] Clothe in or as if in a mantle

  • Cloak or envelop
  • [Archaic; of blood] Suffuse (the face)
The stockings were hung from the mantel for Santa to fill.

A mantelshelf is a beautiful showcase for trophies.

River rocks and an ancient beam make up the mantel in their mountain home.

The houses were covered with a thick mantle of snow.

She caught up her mantle, swirling it around her shoulders before she stepped out of the house.

Turn up that mantle on the lantern. We need more light.

The second son has now assumed his father’s mantle.

Rule carries the mantles of two clans.

Verb, intransitive:
her rich face mantling with emotion

Getting a proper mantle of froth on a Guinness involves a precise process.

When mantling, feeding birds may exhibit other nervous behavior including frequent looks at the surrounding area to scan for intruders or shuffling feet to continually readjust the mantling cover to disrupt views from different directions.

Verb, transitive:
Heavy mists mantled the forested slopes.

A warm pink mounted to the girl’s cheeks and mantled her brow.

Noun: mantel shelf, mantelpiece, mantelshelf Adjective: unmantled
Noun: gas mantle, mantling
History of the Word:
Old English mentel, from the Latin mantellum.

1480-90 as a shortened form of the Middle English mantiltre meaning mantletree, from the earlier mantell, mantelet.

Mid-16th century, as a specialized use of mantle.

Before 900.

Middle English mantel, from the Old English mæntel, which is from the Latin mantellum meaning cloak, reinforced in Middle English by the Old French mantel.

Return to top

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves?