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

Definition of carceral

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

Did you know?

Our earliest known evidence of carceral—an adjective borrowed directly from Late Latin—dates to the late 16th century, with evidence of incarcerate ("to imprison") appearing shortly thereafter; they're both ultimately from carcer, Latin for "prison." The English verb cancel is also linked to carcer via Latin cancelli, a word meaning "lattice" that likely developed from an alteration of carcer. Carceral is a word that is generally not found outside the confines of academic or legal contexts.  

Examples of carceral in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Coordinate care inside and outside carceral settings. Bill Frist, Forbes, 15 June 2022 But the village’s dehumanizing rules and inhospitable conditions create anything but a safe and secure environment, and no amount of whimsy — in the form of colorful, cheery murals — can hide the carceral nature of the camp. Longreads, 4 Mar. 2022 Meanwhile, Black Lives Matter at Schools has chapters across the country working with school districts and city officials to hire more on-site counselors and implement rehabilitative discipline models instead of carceral ones. Char Adams, NBC News, 31 May 2022 Pointing to the expanding gulf between wages and rent and real estate’s tightening grip on the state, the group demands that the city’s new, nearly $1 billion homelessness budget serve a whole new system rather than a carceral fix. Tracy Rosenthal, The New Republic, 19 May 2022 Estimates show that at least 58,000 pregnant people enter the carceral system each year, according to The Sentencing Project and the Prison Policy Initiative. Kiara Alfonseca, ABC News, 17 May 2022 Today, the 36-year-old L.A. rapper has yet to commit that sweltering carceral nightmare to record. Max Bell, SPIN, 29 Apr. 2022 One is stories about people who support [those] in the U.S. carceral system, and [the other is] stories about the people who become surprising caregivers for the aging in America. Brendan O'meara, Longreads, 6 Apr. 2022 Media distortions and carceral inequities fuel the myth that Black and brown men are presumptively criminal. Margaret M. Russell, The Conversation, 24 Mar. 2022 See More

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.

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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Last Updated

26 Jun 2022

Cite this Entry

“Carceral.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Jun. 2022.

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