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

These three drawings, pencil on paper, were in my sketchbooks there. Aaron Gilbreath, Longreads, "Old In Art School," 20 June 2018 Galliano also made me a pinstripe burgundy wool pencil skirt to match, and the ensemble was a sensation at the Paris shows—and drove the city’s cab drivers into a frenzy of sarcastic wolf whistling. Hamish Bowles, Vogue, "Les Garçonnes Were Out in Full Force at the Exhibition Opening of Gender Bending Fashion at Boston’s MFA," 19 Mar. 2019 Cat eyes can be achieved with pencil, gel, or liquid, but newbies should stick to a liquid liner in felt-tip or brush form. WSJ, "How to Master the French-Girl Cat Eye," 14 Feb. 2019 No more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks. Ronnie Polaneczky,, "School's out, but these foster kids don't want to leave | Ronnie Polaneczky," 22 June 2018 The full collection included four lipstick shades, four lip glosses, an eye-shadow palette, two lip pencils, and a bronzer. Sarah Spellings, The Cut, "Get Aaliyah’s M.A.C Makeup Collection Before It Sells Out," 21 June 2018 The collection consists of a pencil skirt and cropped blouse and cocktail dress for women, in a matching blush floral print with a tiered dress for the little ones. Kerry Pieri, Harper's BAZAAR, "Brock Launches Mommy and Me on the Runway," 8 Feb. 2019 Although the focus there is on STEM education, pens and pencils are preferred and cellphones banned. CBS News, "Inside Basis, the acclaimed school network behind the country's leading high schools," 2 June 2018 The app’s features are pretty simple for now, with a basic toolbar consisting of pencil, pen, marker, chalk, and eraser tools, in addition to a color palette. Dami Lee, The Verge, "Google’s Chrome Canvas is a handy browser app for quick doodles," 20 Dec. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The Fed penciled in three increases in 2019 at its September meeting. Daniel Kruger, WSJ, "U.S. Government Bonds Gain as Stock Slide Continues," 20 Nov. 2018 Elizabeth Banks’ reboot of the franchise has been buzzy amongst critics and fans, with an initial casting plan penciling KStew in for a lead role alongside Lupita Nyong’o. Lucy Wood, Marie Claire, "Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, and Ella Balinska Confirmed for New Charlie's Angels Remake," 27 July 2018 Are the skinny arches favored (and penciled in) by Aucoin and his cadre of 1990s supermodels destined to return on the cyclical conveyor belt of time and trend? Calin Van Paris, Vogue, "Kim Kardashian West Shares an Epic Throwback Picture of Her 90s Skinny Brows," 5 Sep. 2018 The numbers just don’t pencil out in Manhattan, especially for rentals. Josh Barbanel, WSJ, "A Building Boom Pushes New York City Outward," 28 Oct. 2018 From a cost-per-game perspective, buying the headset exclusively for the NBA in VR probably doesn’t pencil out for most people. Ben Golliver,, "Putting the NBA in Virtual Reality to the Test," 20 Apr. 2018 Policy makers penciled in three increases for next year and one more in 2020 at their meeting in September. Daniel Kruger, WSJ, "U.S. Dollar Weakens as Fed Meeting Begins," 18 Dec. 2018 Kerner, who is from Agoura Hills, and McGuire, a Kent, Wash., native, were penciled in for backup roles when the season began, but quickly moved into starting roles. Kirk Kenney,, "SDSU's Schmitt, USD's Kerner and McGuire named Freshmen All-Americans by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper," 6 June 2018 Too often, Martz says, girls on football teams are penciled into play kicker. Jayda Evans, The Seattle Times, "A battle for respect, then in the trenches: For Newport’s Jenna Martz, football is feminism," 26 Oct. 2018

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

9 Apr 2019

Look-up Popularity

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

Comments on pencil

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


to affect and impair by alcohol or a drug

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