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 Women and girls could disappear — gone to visit an aunt in the country — code for being incarcerated at a Mother and Baby Home or a Magdalene Laundry. Carmel Mc Mahon, Longreads, "Brigid, Magdalene, My Mother, and Me," 13 Nov. 2019 The latest witness to speak in Reed's defense, an inmate who was incarcerated with Fennell at a Texas prison, recounted in an affidavit submitted to the parole board that Fennell confessed to killing Stites during a 2010 conversation in jail. Erin Donaghue, CBS News, "Rihanna, Meek Mill, Janelle Monáe join calls to halt Texas inmate's execution amid "cloud of doubt"," 5 Nov. 2019 Under the sentence handed down by Judge John Kinsella, Nunez will be able to go to his job in the restaurant business, but will be incarcerated at all other times in the county jail. Clifford Ward,, "Former DuPage probation officer who pleaded guilty to sexual misconduct with client sentenced to a year of work release," 1 Nov. 2019 Justin Gause was initially incarcerated at the jail but is currently free on bail, state police said. Jeff Murray, USA TODAY, "Brothers who allegedly left their grandma to die in a fire, but saved meth lab equipment indicted," 21 Oct. 2019 Browder took his own life after spending three years incarcerated at Rikers Island without being convicted of a crime. Rob Frehse, CNN, "New York City Council votes to close notorious Rikers Island jail," 17 Oct. 2019 That order included hundreds of teenagers incarcerated at the Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall facility in Sylmar, not far from the fire's edge. Anchorage Daily News, "L.A. fire burns homes, threatens communities in San Fernando Valley," 11 Oct. 2019 Inmates incarcerated at the Arizona State Prison Complex-Perryville, located in Goodyear, send their handwrittenletters to her. Lauren Castle, azcentral, "Women incarcerated in Perryville prison use website to share their stories," 29 June 2019 Mass murderers and torturers are among those incarcerated at Rikers Island. Dennis Prager, National Review, "Leftism Makes People Meaner," 11 June 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

15 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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Comments on incarcerate

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concealed or difficult to comprehend

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