incarcerate

verb

in·​car·​cer·​ate in-ˈkär-sə-ˌrāt How to pronounce incarcerate (audio)
incarcerated; incarcerating

transitive verb

1
: to put in prison
2
: to subject to confinement

Did you know?

Just as English is full of nouns referring to places where prisoners are confined, from the familiar (jail and prison) to the obscure (calaboose and bridewell), so we have multiple verbs for the action of putting people behind bars. Some words can be used as both nouns and verbs, if in slightly different forms: one can be jailed in a jail, imprisoned in a prison, locked up in a lockup, or even jugged in a jug. Incarcerate does not have such a noun equivalent in English—incarceration refers to the state of confinement rather than a physical structure—but it comes ultimately from the Latin noun carcer, meaning “prison.” Incarcerate is also on the formal end of the spectrum when it comes to words related to the law and criminal justice, meaning you are more likely to read or hear about someone incarcerated in a penitentiary or detention center than in the pokey or hoosegow.

Examples of incarcerate in a Sentence

the state incarcerated over 1900 people last year
Recent Examples on the Web It’s been a decade since prisoners incarcerated under the worst conditions in California organized a massive hunger strike that roped in thousands of participants and helped scale back the use of solitary confinement statewide. Nate Gartrell, The Mercury News, 24 Feb. 2024 Ultimately, those conditions can lead to greater risks for inmates, correctional employees and the public when the incarcerated are released. Joe Davidson, Washington Post, 23 Feb. 2024 Here’s how the penalties shake out for manufacturing, transporting and possessing marijuana in Idaho as of Feb. 22, 2024: Less than 3 ounces for personal use— Misdemeanor with a minimum fine of up to $1,000 and up to one year incarcerated. Shaun Goodwin, Idaho Statesman, 22 Feb. 2024 When applying for jobs professionals are often asked if they’ve ever been arrested or incarcerated. Maya Richard-Craven, Forbes, 22 Feb. 2024 But experts say thousands of innocent people have been incarcerated. Jack Nicas, New York Times, 21 Feb. 2024 Along with state law, federal law has long said ignoring the needs of someone incarcerated amounts to a violation of the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. Ryan Oehrli, Charlotte Observer, 20 Feb. 2024 The Utah Board of Pardons and Parole will determine how long Franke and Hildebrandt will be incarcerated. Daysia Tolentino, NBC News, 20 Feb. 2024 The hearing is the latest stage in a convoluted journey that has left Assange incarcerated at Belmarsh, a high-security prison in the south-east of the British capital, years after an undignified eviction from London’s Ecuadorian embassy. Lauren Said-Moorhouse, CNN, 20 Feb. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'incarcerate.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Latin incarceratus, past participle of incarcerare, from in- + carcer prison

First Known Use

1575, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of incarcerate was in 1575

Podcast

Dictionary Entries Near incarcerate

Cite this Entry

“Incarcerate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/incarcerate. Accessed 3 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition

incarcerate

verb
in·​car·​cer·​ate in-ˈkär-sə-ˌrāt How to pronounce incarcerate (audio)
incarcerated; incarcerating
: to put in prison : confine
incarceration noun

Legal Definition

incarcerate

transitive verb
in·​car·​cer·​ate in-ˈkär-sə-ˌrāt How to pronounce incarcerate (audio)
incarcerated; incarcerating
incarceration noun
Etymology

Latin incarceratus, past participle of incarcerare, from in- in + carcer prison

More from Merriam-Webster on incarcerate

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!