carceral

adjective
car·​cer·​al | \ ˈkär-sə-rəl How to pronounce carceral (audio) \

Definition of carceral

: of, relating to, or suggesting a jail or prison

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Did You Know?

Describing a painting of John Howard visiting a prison in 1787, Robert Hughes wrote that Howard was "the pioneer of English carceral reform" (Time Magazine, November 11, 1985). Prison reform might be the more common phrase, but the use of carceral was by no means unprecedented. Vladimir Nabokov, in his inimitable prose, described a prison scene in Invitation to a Beheading thusly: "The door opened, whining, rattling and groaning in keeping with all the rules of carceral counterpoint." An adjective borrowed directly from Late Latin, carceral appeared shortly after incarcerate ("to imprison"), which first showed up in English around the mid-1500s; they're both ultimately from carcer, Latin for "prison."

Examples of carceral in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web And as astute observers of America’s carceral state have noted, those drug dealers who landed long prison bids were, in vastly disproportionate numbers, African American. David Farber, Twin Cities, "David Farber: How drug-related violence complicates criminal justice reform," 1 Oct. 2019 Still, an accounting of the carceral’s state toxicity to the environment would be lacking without acknowledging the role of police and prisons in leveling force against environmental activists (or climate refugees for that matter). Will Meyer, Longreads, "A Green New Jail," 24 Oct. 2019 Edmond’s fate speaks to our current debate over America’s carceral state and the role the war on drugs has played in building it. David Farber, Twin Cities, "David Farber: How drug-related violence complicates criminal justice reform," 1 Oct. 2019 But watching this country set up a complex and largely inaccessible network of detention facilities, while its political leaders animate racist discourse, makes a careful comparison of the two carceral regimes not only meaningful, but necessary. Philip Kennicott, chicagotribune.com, "Will future museums study our migrant cages?," 22 July 2019 But a woman of her means, with her support network and her lawyers, wasn’t destined to get trapped in the carceral system. Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic, "The Ballad of Taystee Jefferson," 31 July 2019 But watching this country set up a complex and largely inaccessible network of detention facilities, while its political leaders animate racist discourse, makes a careful comparison of the two carceral regimes not only meaningful, but necessary. Philip Kennicott, chicagotribune.com, "Will future museums study our migrant cages?," 22 July 2019 But watching this country set up a complex and largely inaccessible network of detention facilities, while its political leaders animate racist discourse, makes a careful comparison of the two carceral regimes not only meaningful, but necessary. Philip Kennicott, chicagotribune.com, "Will future museums study our migrant cages?," 22 July 2019 But watching this country set up a complex and largely inaccessible network of detention facilities, while its political leaders animate racist discourse, makes a careful comparison of the two carceral regimes not only meaningful, but necessary. Philip Kennicott, chicagotribune.com, "Will future museums study our migrant cages?," 22 July 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'carceral.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of carceral

1570, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for carceral

Late Latin, from Latin carcer prison

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The first known use of carceral was in 1570

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Cite this Entry

“Carceral.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/carceral. Accessed 28 Feb. 2020.

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