Definition of caravel in English:


(also carvel)


  • A small, fast Spanish or Portuguese sailing ship of the 15th–17th centuries.

    • ‘Its tall twin bell towers were the first sign of port for the caravels making the long voyage from Lisbon, Africa or Macau.’
    • ‘Nine years later his caravels were wrecked at Puerto Bueno - the present Dry Harbour.’
    • ‘One theory has it as the hulk of a Portuguese caravel wrecked here in the 1560s.’
    • ‘Square-rigged sails were particularly effective on the lighter ships known as caravels, which is why the Nina and Pinta were apt choices for Columbus's first voyage.’
    • ‘The even skin of the carvel hull enabled shipwrights to cut gunports close to the waterline.’


Early 16th century: from French caravelle, from Portuguese caravela, diminutive of caravo, via Latin from Greek karabos ‘horned beetle’ or ‘light ship’.