pen·​cil | \ ˈpen(t)-səl How to pronounce pencil (audio) \

Definition of pencil

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : an artist's brush
2 : an artist's individual skill or style
3a : an implement for writing, drawing, or marking consisting of or containing a slender cylinder or strip of a solid marking substance
b : a small medicated or cosmetic roll or stick for local applications
4 : a set of geometric objects each pair of which has a common property the lines in a plane through a point comprise a pencil of lines
5 : something (such as a beam of radiation) long and thin like a pencil


penciled or pencilled; penciling or pencilling\ ˈpen(t)-​s(ə-​)liŋ How to pronounce pencilling (audio) \

Definition of pencil (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to paint, draw, write, or mark with a pencil
2 : to plan or designate tentatively used with inpenciled him in as the nominee

Examples of pencil in a Sentence

Noun Use a pencil instead of a pen so you can erase your mistakes. Verb He penciled some notes on a piece of paper.
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Not only were the payments recorded inaccurately, but were done in pencil, so the numbers could later be changed, according to an order filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission in federal court. Ed Silverman, STAT, "Alexion to pay $21 million for failing to record bribes paid to doctors in other countries," 2 July 2020 Election workers are giving voters the option of using gloves supplied at the polls, or a pencil or finger cot, for non-contact voting. Scott Huddleston,, "Early voting under way in San Antonio with protections from coronavirus," 29 June 2020 In one of the episode's more stomach-churning moments, Perry pokes at the head with a pencil, revealing some sort of foreign dental object among what's left of the victim's mouth., "Perry Mason recap: Haunted by wartime horrors, Mason makes a gruesome discovery," 29 June 2020 There's also an available tailgate work surface that adds rulers, a mobile device holder, a cupholder, and pencil holders into the tailgate along with available zone lighting to light up areas of the truck and bed when working at night. Connor Hoffman, Car and Driver, "2021 Ford F-150 Pickup Is Less of an Overhaul Than We Expected," 26 June 2020 And there's an option to spec the tailgate with a work surface that includes rulers, pencil holders, a cupholder, and a place to keep your mobile device. Jonathan M. Gitlin, Ars Technica, "Everything we know about the new Ford F-150 truck—including the hybrid," 25 June 2020 The museum will remove the pencil and ask guests to use their own writing implement or cellphone. Andrea Sachs, Washington Post, "Cultural institutions reopen with a more hands-off approach," 25 June 2020 The plug was widely considered one of the best pencil poppers ever made. John Merwin, Field & Stream, "The 25 Best Striper Surf Lures of All Time," 23 Oct. 2019 Her research shows that adults are more likely to explicitly bring up the reality status of ambiguous entities such as Santa, as opposed to real ones such as, say, a pencil. Bret Stetka, Scientific American, "From Dinosaurs to Disney, Children Take Cues from Adults on Real vs. Make-Believe," 17 June 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb So go ahead and pencil these into your family calendar. Kirby Adams, The Courier-Journal, "Do you miss travel? Here are 5 single-day outdoor excursions within an hour of Louisville," 3 July 2020 The outdoorsy and adventurous can pencil dive into a gorge or wade under a waterfall. Alex Erdekian, Condé Nast Traveler, "7 Easy Weekend Trips from NYC," 17 June 2020 That kind of production from Torkelson — pencil it in at 1.2 WAR over 50 games — would be spectacular, especially at third, where the Tigers received minus-0.2 WAR last season. Ryan Ford, Detroit Free Press, "How the Detroit Tigers can make MLB playoffs in a 50-game season," 16 June 2020 But with meat shortages raising prices sky high, running a sandwich shop during the coronavirus crisis just didn’t pencil out. oregonlive, "These Portland restaurants reinvented themselves to survive coronavirus pandemic," 3 June 2020 Both Los Angeles teams feel fair to pencil into playoff spots, as do the Warriors, Rockets, Nuggets and Jazz. Michael Shapiro,, "Can the Blazers Survive a Loaded Western Conference Playoff Race?," 24 Sep. 2019 If the Dolphins keep all three of their first-round picks, as is, let’s pencil them in with a third prospect on offense and say it’s a running back. Arizona Republic, "Isaiah Simmons to Arizona Cardinals: NFL insider stays with Clemson LB in final mock draft," 22 Apr. 2020 The multi-positional Marwin Gonzalez can play both first and third base, though penciling him in for one position takes away the value his flexibility brings to the team. Betsy Helfand, Twin Cities, "A look at the Twins’ needs as the Winter Meetings get under way," 7 Dec. 2019 In the 1950s, Sanchez’s father, Sandy Sanchez, relied on the slugger’s skills and always penciled him in as the closer on the team roster. Vincent T. Davis,, "San Antonio man recalls glory days of South Texas baseball," 2 Dec. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'pencil.' 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 pencil


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


circa 1500, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for pencil


Middle English pensel, from Anglo-French pincel, from Vulgar Latin *penicellus, alteration of Latin penicillus, diminutive of peniculus brush, from diminutive of penis tail, penis

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Time Traveler for pencil

Time Traveler

The first known use of pencil was in the 14th century

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Statistics for pencil

Last Updated

5 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Pencil.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for pencil


How to pronounce pencil (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of pencil

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: an instrument used for writing and drawing that has a hard outer part and a black or colored center part



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

: to draw or write (something) with a pencil


pen·​cil | \ ˈpen-səl How to pronounce pencil (audio) \

Kids Definition of pencil

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a device for writing or drawing consisting of a stick of black or colored material enclosed in wood, plastic, or metal


penciled or pencilled; penciling or pencilling

Kids Definition of pencil (Entry 2 of 2)

: to write, mark, or draw with a pencil


pen·​cil | \ ˈpen(t)-səl How to pronounce pencil (audio) \

Medical Definition of pencil

1 : a small medicated or cosmetic roll or stick for local applications a menthol pencil
2 : an aggregate of rays of radiation (as light) especially when diverging from or converging to a point

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