from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A small defensive earthwork or fort.
  • noun A decorative wall bracket for holding candles or lights.
  • noun A flattened candlestick that has a handle.
  • noun Slang The human head or skull.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun A lantern with a protecting shade; a dark lantern; any lantern.
  • noun A candlestick having the form of a bracket projecting from a wall or column; also, a group of such candlesticks, forming, with an appliqué or flat, somewhat ornamented disk or plaque which seems to adhere to the wall, a decorative object. These were most commonly of brass during the years when sconces were most in use.
  • noun The socket for the candle in a candlestick of any form, especially when having a projecting rim around it.
  • noun A cover; a shelter; a protection; specifically, a screen or partition to cover or protect anything; a shed or hut for protection from the weather; a covered stall.
  • noun A work for defense, detached from the main works for some local object; a bulwark; a block-house; a fort, as for the defense of a pass or river.
  • noun A cover or protection for the head; a headpiece; a helmet.
  • noun Hence The head; the skull; the cranium, especially the top of it.
  • noun Brains; sense; wits; judgment or discretion.
  • noun A mulct; a fine. See sconce, v. t., 3.
  • noun A seat in old-fashioned open chimney-places; a chimney-seat.
  • noun A fragment of an ice-floe.
  • To fortify or defend with a sconce or block-house.
  • Same as ensconce.
  • To assess or tax at so much per head; mulct; fine; specifically, in the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, to put the name of in the college buttery-books by way of fine; mulct in a tankard of ale or the like for some offense. See the quotations.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • transitive verb obsolete To shut up in a sconce; to imprison; to insconce.
  • transitive verb obsolete To mulct; to fine.
  • noun A fortification, or work for defense; a fort.
  • noun A hut for protection and shelter; a stall.
  • noun A piece of armor for the head; headpiece; helmet.
  • noun colloq. Fig.: The head; the skull; also, brains; sense; discretion.
  • noun A poll tax; a mulct or fine.
  • noun A protection for a light; a lantern or cased support for a candle; hence, a fixed hanging or projecting candlestick.
  • noun Hence, the circular tube, with a brim, in a candlestick, into which the candle is inserted.
  • noun (Arch.) A squinch.
  • noun A fragment of a floe of ice.
  • noun Prov. Eng. A fixed seat or shelf.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun A light fixture.
  • noun A head or a skull.
  • noun A type of small fort or other fortification, especially as built to defend a pass or ford.
  • verb obsolete to impose a fine, a forfeit, or a mulct.
  • verb obsolete to shut within a sconce; to imprison.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun a shelter or screen providing protection from enemy fire or from the weather
  • noun a candle or flaming torch secured in a sconce
  • noun a decorative wall bracket for holding candles or other sources of light
  • noun a small fort or earthwork defending a ford, pass, or castle gate


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Dutch schans, from German Schanze, from Middle High German.]

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English, from Old French esconse, lantern, hiding place, from Medieval Latin scōnsa, from Latin abscōnsa, feminine past participle of abscondere, to hide away : ab-, abs-, away; see ab– + condere, to preserve; see dhē- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From French esconce ("lantern"), from Latin absconsus ("hidden"), perfect passive participle of abscondō ("hide"). Cognate with abscond.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle Dutch schans, cognate with German Schanze.


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  • "The lobby downstairs had been decorated with marble and bronze sconces. That was just a prelude. The lift opened to a staircase landing flooded with morning light from large dormer windows; it was big enough to hold a billiard tournament."

    - 'The Quiet Girl', Peter Høeg.

    March 18, 2008