Definition of penal
- a penal offense
- a penal colony
Australia was once a penal colony.
These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'penal.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.
A state or country's penal code defines its crimes and describes its punishments. During the 18th and 19th centuries, many countries established penal colonies, where criminals were sent as punishment. Often these were unbearably severe; but it was to such colonies that some of Australia's and the United States' early white inhabitants came, and the convicts provided labor for the European settlement of these lands.
: relating to or used for punishment
: very severe
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