What is a Carbuncle?

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If someone gives you the right kind of carbuncle, you will be happy. A deep-red gem, like a garnet, is a carbuncle. The red garnets are not the most expensive (that honor goes to green garnets), but they are nevertheless pretty.

Carbuncles as Jewelry

Pharaohs wore necklaces adorned with garnets, and the necklaces were entombed with the pharaohs so they could wear them in the afterlife. Romans traded garnets, and clergy and nobility favored the red carbuncles.

Painful Carbuncles

You could have a carbuncle with a red garnet, but it could also be a pus-filled inflammation of tissue under the skin. One boil is a furuncle, and a cluster of boils is a carbuncle.

The carbuncle starts when bacteria infect hair follicles, and the infection spreads to create several large and painful boils. The good news is that the pain will go away once the boils rupture and the pus is drained.

Most carbuncles will heal on their own if you keep the area clean and cover it with a gauze or a bandage. Heat and warm compresses help bring down the infection. Sometimes the infection can cause a fever, and you can take a painkiller such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

Annoying Carbuncles

Carbuncle is sometimes used to describe any pimple, although carbuncle-faced doesn’t have the same effect. Medically speaking, a carbuncle isn’t the same as a pimple. The pimple is caused by a clogged pore, not a bacterial infection.

Ancestry Carbuncles

A carbuncle coat of arms
Source: Wikipedia Commons

The fourth definition of carbuncles relates to coats of arms and other heraldic symbols. The carbuncle symbol consists of eight rods or spokes to represent swords. Four rods represent a standard cross, and the other four represent a saltire, a diagonal cross.

Some carbuncles contained a red garnet, which might be the source of the name.

Related Words

  • If an object is carbuncled, it is inlaid with garnet. Similarly, bowls decorated with pearls are baccated.
  • Carbuncular objects belong to a carbuncle.
  • However, carbunculation is not the process of shaping a garnet. Instead, it refers to using excessive heat or cold to remove young buds from plants or trees.


If you are born in January, garnet is your birthstone. Supposedly if you dream of garnet, riches will come your way. Sweet dreams.

And if you like expanding your vocabulary through posts like this one, you might be a Lover of Words.

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