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 While more voters are expected to cast postal ballots in the elections, people going to polling stations were encouraged to bring their own pen or pencil and to wear a face covering. Pan Pylas, Star Tribune, 6 May 2021 The last person to go to trial for his alleged ties to the gang, Siale Angilau, was shot and killed by a federal marshal after Angilau grabbed a pen and a mechanical pencil and ran toward a witness who had started testifying about the gang. Jessica Miller, The Salt Lake Tribune, 1 Apr. 2021 Visitors to the site can take a piece of paper and use a pencil to create an etching of a name. Haley Victory Smith, Washington Examiner, 29 Mar. 2021 Use a pencil to mark the angle where the tube meets the box. Jonathan Adolph, Popular Science, 24 Nov. 2020 In drawing plays for Javian Hawkins, a coach should use pencil and remain patient. Tim Sullivan, The Courier-Journal, 25 Oct. 2020 Lay the remaining particle-board on a flat, level surface and use a pencil to trace the outline of the bench parts. David Agrell And Eric Weil, Popular Mechanics, 25 July 2020 For three illusions, visitors use a pencil to complete the trick, such as comparing the lengths of two triangles. Andrea Sachs, Washington Post, 25 June 2020 Preparation Use the ruler (and pen or pencil) to measure one-inch increments along the short side of your index card. Exploratorium, Scientific American, 20 Nov. 2014 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Xavier University's men's basketball team can pencil in another team on the schedule for the upcoming 2021-22 season. Adam Baum, The Enquirer, 3 June 2021 Under the current state program, landlords may apply on behalf of tenants impacted by the pandemic who make up to 80% of their county’s median income, which in many corners of the Bay Area can pencil out to $75,000 or more. Lauren Hepler, San Francisco Chronicle, 10 May 2021 Neal’s proposal would cost upward of $2 trillion over the next decade; Biden’s plan is expected to pencil out at just over $1.5 trillion, although final details remain in flux. Los Angeles Times, 27 Apr. 2021 The days of being able to pencil in UConn, or Tennessee before that, as the national champion are over. Nancy Armour, USA TODAY, 4 Apr. 2021 With the Zags favored by 14 points, the largest Final Four point spread in 25 years according to the Vegas sports books, get ready to pencil in one team in Monday’s national championship game: Gonzaga. Charles Hollis, al, 2 Apr. 2021 And weekend trips can be easier to pencil into a busy schedule than a long, far-away vacation. Mili Godio, NBC News, 23 Mar. 2021 Don’t be afraid to pencil in a 12-vs.-13 game in the second round of this region. David Dorman Vsin, Los Angeles Times, 19 Mar. 2021 Wilson’s rookie contract would pencil to $8.7 million per season across four years. Tom Krasovic, San Diego Union-Tribune, 10 Mar. 2021

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

12 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Pencil.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Jun. 2021.

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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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