in·​car·​cer·​ate | \in-ˈkär-sə-ˌrāt \
incarcerated; incarcerating

Definition of incarcerate 

transitive verb

1 : to put in prison

2 : to subject to confinement

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Other Words from incarcerate

incarceration \(ˌ)in-​ˌkär-​sə-​ˈrā-​shən \ noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for incarcerate


commit, confine, immure, imprison, intern, jail, jug, lock (up)


discharge, free, liberate, release

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Did You Know?

A criminal sentenced to incarceration may wish his or her debt to society could be canceled, but such a wistful felon might be surprised to learn that incarcerate and cancel are related. Incarcerate comes from incarcerare, a Latin verb meaning "to imprison." That Latin root comes from carcer, Latin for prison. Etymologists think that cancel probably got its start when the spelling of carcer was modified to cancer, which means "lattice" in Latin-an early meaning of cancel in English was "to mark (a passage) for deletion with lines crossed like a lattice." Aside from its literal meaning, incarcerate can also have a figurative application meaning "to subject to confinement," as in "people who are incarcerated in their obsessions."

Examples of incarcerate in a Sentence

the state incarcerated over 1900 people last year

Recent Examples on the Web

Marketplace plans: These plans are available to U.S. citizens living in the States who are not incarcerated. Sarah Jacoby, SELF, "Heads Up: You Can Still Sign Up for Obamacare and Open Enrollment Is Going On Right Now," 14 Nov. 2018 Dreyfus in February sentenced Lefaive, who is incarcerated on separate charges, to probation for his role in Raatz's death. Steven Martinez, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Jury finds Dousman man guilty of homicide for role in girlfriend's fatal overdose," 13 July 2018 While Petrichor is housed in a women’s correctional facility, in February Boston prison officials declined to do the same for a transgender woman who is incarcerated. Shaan Amin, The Atlantic, "The Sprawling, Empathetic Adventure of Saga," 28 Mar. 2018 In conversations with women who were once incarcerated at Bayview and may eventually return as counselors and staffers, the architects learned that this project is as much about expunging memory as about saving stones. Justin Davidson, The Cut, "What Would a World Designed by Women Look Like?," 20 Mar. 2018 The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction provides data on offenders who are currently incarcerated in an Ohio prison, currently under department supervision, and judicially released. Sheila Vilvens,, "How well do you really know your babysitter?," 13 Mar. 2018 Dozens of others supporting the cause have been incarcerated in recent years. Joe Cochrane, New York Times, "Indonesia Clamps Down on Simmering Independence Effort in Papua," 3 June 2018 Other than that, she has been incarcerated at Tutwiler. Ivana Hrynkiw,, "Judith Ann Neelley waives parole hearing in teen's brutal 1982 rape, murder," 1 May 2018 He is now incarcerated in The Powledge Unit, a state prison in Palestine, Texas. Krista Johnson, USA TODAY, "This son of prophet Warren Jeffs has 54 brothers and sisters. Yet the former FLDS church member felt alone.," 8 Apr. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'incarcerate.' 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 incarcerate

1575, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for incarcerate

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

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Statistics for incarcerate

Last Updated

13 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for incarcerate

The first known use of incarcerate was in 1575

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English Language Learners Definition of incarcerate

: to put (someone) in prison


transitive verb
in·​car·​cer·​ate | \in-ˈkär-sə-ˌrāt \
incarcerated; incarcerating

Legal Definition of incarcerate 

Other Words from incarcerate

incarceration \in-​ˌkär-​sə-​ˈrā-​shən \ noun

History and Etymology for incarcerate

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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on incarcerate

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living or existing for a long time

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