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 in penciled him in as the nominee

Examples of pencil in a Sentence


Use a pencil instead of a pen so you can erase your mistakes.


He penciled some notes on a piece of paper.

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

In addition to the courtyard, the show spans three large galleries but offers no list of works with titles, dates and media; the scant wall texts are scrawled in pencil by the artist, and the press release is an abstract doodle. Sharon Mizota,, "If an artist sets up a homeless camp inside a blue-chip art gallery, does anyone care?," 18 June 2019 Be sure to include your full name, age (5 to 13) and hometown in pencil on the back of your artwork. Dara Elasfar, Washington Post, "Summer is no bummer when there’s sun. Show KidsPost what that looks like.," 11 June 2019 One of the documents has a note scribbled in pencil in the margin saying that King was present when a parishioner was raped in a hotel room. The Economist, "FBI files suggest MLK was more complicated than his myth," 8 June 2019 The seven drawings in the show are in pencil, charcoal, or various combinations of these with colored chalk, pastel, and paint. Stephen Ellis, The New York Review of Books, "Willem de Kooning: Acrobat with a Paint Brush," 1 June 2019 Use a pencil to mark the screw-mounting holes in the second bracket onto the wall. Joseph Truini, Popular Mechanics, "Three Ways to Build Your Own Shelves," 24 Jan. 2019 Start by applying a skullcap, then use a pencil to draw the outline of the smile, making sure that your eyes and mouth are inside the line. Zoë Weiner, Teen Vogue, "The Scariest Halloween Makeup Tutorials," 8 Oct. 2018 Langley, who is known professionally as Langley Fox (Fox is her middle name), is an artist who draws intricate characters in pencil or ink on paper or wood, every line of their beings painstakingly created. Nell Casey, Town & Country, "Surviving Hemingway," 7 Aug. 2013 Turman also alleged that his predecessor, in the final months of his term, purchased more than $6,000 of promotional items emblazoned with his name — Frisbees, coloring books, pencils — that have no use, which and ProPublica reported. Connor Sheets |,, "Alabama sheriff lost military equipment and reelection. Then he went on a spending spree," 28 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The hard-nosed eight-year veteran could be penciled in as the Spurs’ starting power forward next to LaMarcus Aldridge. Jeff Mcdonald,, "With Morris still in limbo, Gay and Carroll glad to ink Spurs deals," 11 July 2019 The left-handed hitter was penciled in for a roster spot this spring before his surgery. Matt Kawahara,, "A’s reinstate catcher Chris Herrmann, option Beau Taylor," 2 July 2019 Officials also penciled in two rate increases this year, assuming the economy grows at around 2.3% this year. Nick Timiraos, WSJ, "Kansas City Fed’s Esther George Says Central Bank Can Pause Rate Increases," 15 Jan. 2019 Grandal came to the park May 7, 2015, with the Dodgers and saw himself penciled into the lineup batting second. Jr Radcliffe, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Yasmani Grandal bats leadoff for the first time in his career as Brewers look to shake up the lineup," 22 June 2019 Mostly a catcher and third baseman, Astudillo was penciled into Wednesday’s lineup as the second baseman batting eighth, one of three players just up from Rochester in the starting lineup. John Shipley, Twin Cities, "La Tortuga is back for Twins," 19 June 2019 The pair slugged out a highly controversial draw in December and a rematch has been penciled in, though no date has been set. Don Riddell And Ben Church, CNN, "'An inspiration for all fat people': Tyson Fury praises Andy Ruiz Jr.," 6 June 2019 So, the first-year appropriation of $1.6 million was penciled into the BSO’s forecast, Beckwith said. Mary Carole Mccauley,, "A 'going concern'? BSO predicated financial fate on thinnest of margins, wishful thinking," 14 June 2019 Russia and Germany signed an agreement in 2007 with launch penciled in for 2012. Daniel Clery, Science | AAAS, "Telescope designed to study mysterious dark energy keeps Russia’s space science hopes alive," 10 June 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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Statistics for pencil

Last Updated

16 Jul 2019

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Time Traveler for pencil

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

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More Definitions for pencil



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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More from Merriam-Webster on pencil

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with pencil

Spanish Central: Translation of pencil

Nglish: Translation of pencil for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of pencil for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about pencil

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