in·​car·​cer·​a·​tion (ˌ)in-ˌkär-sə-ˈrā-shən How to pronounce incarceration (audio)
plural incarcerations
: confinement in a jail or prison : the act of imprisoning someone or the state of being imprisoned
Despite the drop in crime in past decades, rates of arrest and incarceration in New York City have not gone down.Robin Steinberg
To this day, the Supreme Court has not overruled its infamous Korematsu opinion of 1944, which validated our mass incarceration in deference to national security.George Takei

Examples of incarceration in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Facing a state budget deficit of at least $38 billion, Gov. Gavin Newsom should be rethinking his expensive commitment to the state’s traditional system of mass incarceration. Brian Kaneda, The Mercury News, 13 Feb. 2024 On top of these dynamics, add President Richard Nixon’s war on drugs, which led to longer sentences and higher fines, and the explosive growth of mass incarceration. Courtney E. Martin, The Christian Science Monitor, 12 Feb. 2024 For nearly 18 years, Mr. Turk was kept in near total isolation, allowed only three visits throughout his incarceration. Adam Nossiter, New York Times, 8 Feb. 2024 Grey and the others have been fighting to have their voices heard on measures that would allow certain offenders to apply to end their sentences early, a rising focus among post-conviction reforms aimed at unwinding the troubling legacy of mass incarceration in this country. Petula Dvorak, Washington Post, 6 Feb. 2024 El Salvador now has the world’s highest incarceration rate. David Shortell, CNN, 5 Feb. 2024 These organizations focus primarily on outreach, intervention and reentry from incarceration. Kamal Morgan, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 1 Feb. 2024 Many hands unfurled colorful banners connecting the fight against climate change to movements opposing war, genocide, incarceration, and the theft of Indigenous land. Katie Myers, WIRED, 20 Jan. 2024 The woman fled to Tennessee out of fear despite her husband's incarceration, police said., 2 Feb. 2024 See More

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

Word History

First Known Use

circa 1540, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of incarceration was circa 1540

Dictionary Entries Near incarceration

Cite this Entry

“Incarceration.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Feb. 2024.

Medical Definition


in·​car·​cer·​a·​tion in-ˌkär-sə-ˈrā-shən How to pronounce incarceration (audio)
: a confining or state of being confined
: abnormal retention or confinement of a body part
specifically : a constriction of the neck of a hernial sac so that the hernial contents become irreducible

More from Merriam-Webster on incarceration

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!