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

Definition of incarcerate

transitive verb

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

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Synonyms & Antonyms for incarcerate



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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 Michael Matsuda was born to parents incarcerated at Poston. Daily Pilot, "New exhibit in Anaheim tells stories of O.C.-based Japanese Americans incarcerated during World War II," 5 Sep. 2019 The Milwaukee Common Council on Tuesday approved paying $7.5 million to a man wrongfully incarcerated for 24 years based on bogus bite-mark evidence. Alison Dirr, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Milwaukee aldermen approve $7.5 million settlement with man convicted based on bogus bite mark evidence," 30 July 2019 After being wrongfully incarcerated for the 1989 rape of a female jogger in New York City, the Central Park Five were vacated of all charges in 2002. Heather Finn, Good Housekeeping, "Where Are the Central Park Five Now? What to Know After Watching 'When They See Us'," 8 June 2019 Cory Booker brought them up to blast incarcerating people who use drugs. German Lopez, Vox, "The Democratic debates neglected one of America’s biggest public health crises," 1 Aug. 2019 Kim has lent her voice and influence to a number of social justice issues recently, including gun safety, clemency for people of color incarcerated for lesser crimes, and criminal justice reform. Sarah Midkiff,, "Kim & Kourtney Kardashian Take On Cleaning Up The Site Of A Nuclear Accident," 15 July 2019 The sensual urges of the incarcerated are often demonized, dismissed as criminal or undeserved, but Photo Requests from Solitary regards them without judgment. Doreen St. Félix, The New Yorker, "Photo Requests from Solitary Confinement," 8 July 2019 Daryl had been a dealer, was incarcerated for his crimes. Denise Coffey,, "Offering Hope From The Other Side," 16 Sep. 2019 The 10-1 vote followed a Chronicle investigation documenting the decline of youth crime in California and the stubbornly high costs to maintain detention facilities and incarcerate juveniles. Joaquin Palomino,, "Attorney, youth, public officials detail disturbing conditions in SF juvenile hall," 11 Sep. 2019

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

1 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for incarcerate

The first known use of incarcerate was in 1575

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More Definitions for incarcerate


How to pronounce incarcerate (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of incarcerate

formal : to put (someone) in prison


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

Legal Definition of incarcerate

Other Words from incarcerate

incarceration \ in-​ˌkär-​sə-​ˈrā-​shən How to pronounce incarceration (audio) \ noun

History and Etymology for incarcerate

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

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something of little or no value

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