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 pencil (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

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 Officials quickly obtained, distributed and collected paper-and-pencil forms, returning them to the college before the deadline, Garcia said. Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times, 13 Sep. 2022 Or go simple, and pack playing cards, books, paper and pencil, and a frisbee. Blair Braverman, Outside Online, 23 June 2021 Ian’s become known for his ruddy cheeks and big smile, and for always having a carpenter’s pencil tucked jauntily behind one ear. Rebecca Turkewitz, The New Yorker, 1 Sep. 2022 To create individual pockets for tools or utensils, use a ruler and fabric pencil to measure and mark even increments across the pocketed area. Sarah Martens, Better Homes & Gardens, 31 Aug. 2022 This handy eyeshadow pencil from NUDESTIX not only nicely includes its own carrying case, but also a sharpener to keep your tool sharp. Tiffany Dodson, Harper's BAZAAR, 30 Aug. 2022 Both Kassel and Luna also recommend using pencil brushes for precise application. Ariana Yaptangco, Glamour, 25 Aug. 2022 Renderings, pencil drawings and paintings are fused onto fabric that came from downtown L.A.'s Garment District. Elvia Limón, Los Angeles Times, 25 Aug. 2022 Those shots are always built in the past — easy to draw because a pencil is cheap. J. Kim Murphy, Variety, 25 Aug. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Drews said the museum has been gracious enough to pencil in the reunion for the last week of August every year, which keeps alive memories of the era but also helps those interested plan to attend. Marc Bona, cleveland, 22 Aug. 2022 Victor Caratini, a switch hitter, would pencil in Sunday against Cubs lefty Justin Steele and to bookend the Dodgers series against southpaws Julio Urias and Andrew Heaney. Curt Hogg, Journal Sentinel, 21 Aug. 2022 But don't pencil in another 2008-style Las Vegas housing crash. Lance Lambert, Fortune, 16 Aug. 2022 There’s not going to be a pick-six at Florida, so let’s pencil one in for Sept. 10 vs. Southern Utah. Josh Newman, The Salt Lake Tribune, 29 June 2022 But don't pencil in a housing bust—at least not yet, says Logan Mohtashami, lead analyst at HousingWire. Fortune, 14 June 2022 To recreate her look, pencil on super-thin eyebrows and put on deep purple lipstick. Larry Stansbury, Good Housekeeping, 30 June 2022 For many companies, the cost of running rigorous studies doesn’t pencil out in an increasingly competitive market. Casey Ross, STAT, 8 June 2022 Nobody would blame Willis for wanting to pencil Reyes into his lineup as soon as possible. Joe Noga, cleveland, 17 May 2022 See More

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.

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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Dictionary Entries Near pencil



pencil and pearl

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Statistics for pencil

Last Updated

16 Sep 2022

Cite this Entry

“Pencil.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Sep. 2022.

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More Definitions for 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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