jail

noun
\ ˈjāl How to pronounce jail (audio) \

Definition of jail

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a place of confinement for persons held in lawful custody specifically : such a place under the jurisdiction of a local government (such as a county) for the confinement of persons awaiting trial or those convicted of minor crimes — compare prison
2 : confinement in a jail sentenced to jail

jail

verb
jailed; jailing; jails

Definition of jail (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: to confine in or as if in a jail

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms & Antonyms for jail

Synonyms: Noun

bastille, big house [slang], bridewell, brig, calaboose, can, clink [slang], cooler, coop, guardroom, hock, hold, hoosegow, jailhouse, joint [slang], jug, lockup, nick [British slang], pen, penitentiary, pokey [slang], prison, quod [British slang], slam, slammer, stir [slang], stockade, tolbooth [Scottish]

Synonyms: Verb

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

Antonyms: Verb

discharge, free, liberate, release

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Examples of jail in a Sentence

Noun

He was locked up in the county jail. He was arrested and sent to jail. He went to jail for his crimes. He just got out of jail a few weeks ago. He was kept in jail overnight.

Verb

threatened to jail the punks if they so much as jaywalked
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Cruz has reportedly claimed from jail that Ortiz wasn’t his intended target, saying he was confused about his target because he had only been told the color of the man’s clothing. Aimee Ortiz, BostonGlobe.com, "Prosecutor vows to seek 40-year term for alleged shooter in Ortiz case," 15 June 2019 The federal courts appointed an independent jail monitor. Jason Pohl, ProPublica, "There Has Been an Explosion of Homicides in California’s County Jails. Here’s Why.," 15 June 2019 Yeah, Pam’s in jail for killing Wendy and Jeri is less than sympathetic about it. Rachel Paige, refinery29.com, "Where We Left Off In Jessica Jones Season 2's Dramatic, Friendship-Ruining Finale," 15 June 2019 The jail is budgeted to have about 260 correctional officers but fewer than 200 of those positions are currently filled. Alison Dirr, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Milwaukee County Jail facing staffing crisis due to low salaries, forced overtime," 14 June 2019 Both suspects were jail on individual bonds totaling $15,000. Kristi Nix, Houston Chronicle, "Sugar Land Police arrest 2 Houston men for alleged New Territory home burglary," 14 June 2019 He was booked into jail and was being held on a $100,000 bail bond. Fox News, "Driver charged in DUI crash into home that killed mom, 2 daughters," 14 June 2019 Since California's 2011 prison realignment, jail homicides in L.A. dropped sharply as deadly violence escalated elsewhere in the state. Julia Wick, latimes.com, "Essential California: Using social media to make sure farmworkers know their rights," 14 June 2019 Clark takes over for Mark Bolton, who has served as jail director since 2008. Darcy Costello, The Courier-Journal, "New director of Louisville Metro Corrections appointed and will take over in August," 14 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Ethiopian hotel housekeeper who was jailed after Mo Farah claimed items were stolen from him, wants an apology. oregonlive.com, "Cravon Gillespie, Jessica Hull and Chaquinn Cook honored with UO awards: Oregon track & field rundown," 15 June 2019 The documents laid out the story of an innocent businessman who had been jailed for the crimes of a corrupt politician. Jane Perlez, New York Times, "For China’s Leading Investigative Reporter, Enough Is Enough," 7 June 2019 Neo-Nazi found guilty in 10 killings in Germany: A member of a German neo-Nazi gang was jailed for life for her role in the murders of 10 people during a seven-year campaign of racially motivated violence. Washington Post, "World Digest: July 11, 2018," 11 July 2018 Ron Bell and Jennifer Pendley of Tucson, who filed a lawsuit against Pastner last winter, spoke dozens of times while Bell was jailed for violating his probation in Georgia, Pastner’s lawyers said in the court documents. Alan Judd, ajc, "In jailhouse calls, Josh Pastner’s accusers suggest charges fabricated," 6 July 2018 In another, he was reportedly jailed and then deported from London after being convicted of assaulting a woman there. Mike Scott, NOLA.com, "The fiery genius who was 'the very epitome of jazz'," 28 Apr. 2018 He was jailed without bail, and there was no attorney was listed for him in online court records. Tim Prudente, baltimoresun.com, "Violent April breaks brief peace in Baltimore, with 29 killings in past three weeks," 23 Apr. 2018 The younger one, Liu Hui, has been repeatedly jailed on fraud charges in recent years. The Economist, "China frees the widow of a Nobel peace-prize winner," 11 July 2018 The leaders of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, or C.N.R.P., have been jailed or driven into exile, and lower-ranking members were harassed into joining Mr. Hun Sen’s party or getting out of politics. Julia Wallace, New York Times, "‘Fireflies’ and ‘Ghosts’ in Cambodia Prop Up Facade of Real Election," 11 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'jail.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of jail

Noun

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb

1604, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for jail

Noun

Middle English jaiole, from Anglo-French gaiole, jaiole, from Late Latin caveola, diminutive of Latin cavea cage — more at cage

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about jail

Dictionary Entries near jail

Jahvist

Jahwe

jai alai

jail

jailbait

jailbird

jailbreak

Statistics for jail

Last Updated

18 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for jail

The first known use of jail was in the 13th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for jail

jail

noun

English Language Learners Definition of jail

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a place where people are kept when they have been arrested and are being punished for a crime

jail

verb

English Language Learners Definition of jail (Entry 2 of 2)

: to put (a person) in jail

jail

noun
\ ˈjāl How to pronounce jail (audio) \

Kids Definition of jail

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: prison

jail

verb
jailed; jailing

Kids Definition of jail (Entry 2 of 2)

: to shut up in or as if in a prison

jail

noun
\ ˈjāl How to pronounce jail (audio) \

Legal Definition of jail

: a place of confinement for persons held in lawful custody specifically : such a place under the jurisdiction of a local government (as a county) for the confinement of persons awaiting trial or those convicted of minor crimes — compare house of correction, house of detention, lockup, penitentiary, prison

Other Words from jail

jail transitive verb

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on jail

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with jail

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for jail

Spanish Central: Translation of jail

Nglish: Translation of jail for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of jail for Arabic Speakers

Comments on jail

What made you want to look up jail? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

to take the place or position of

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words for Summer: A Quiz

  • a closeup of a sunflower
  • Which of the following words means “of or relating to summer”?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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