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 The premise is simple: One end features a classic matte black pencil for defining, the other, a shimmering champagne shade to brighten and widen your eyes. Bella Cacciatore, Glamour, 14 July 2021 Draw out arches on the plywood using a compass or string and pencil. Nathalie Kirby, House Beautiful, 13 July 2021 But the initiative focuses on the needs of future students by offering them a 64-gigabyte iPad Air, an Apple Smart keyboard folio, an Apple pencil and tech support from their campus. Colleen Shalby, Los Angeles Times, 12 July 2021 Known for redefining figurative art and the representation of women since the 1950s, this exhibition will showcase over 100 of her works, including collage, paintings, large-scale pastels, ink and pencil drawings as well as etchings. Felicity Carter, Forbes, 5 July 2021 Other Fun Summer Builds Use a sharp pencil and a straight edge to mark the diagonals on the end grain on the upper part of these blocks (the end nearest the 15⁄16-in. James Schadewald, Popular Mechanics, 3 July 2021 Everything from the line is deeply discounted at checkout: the Eye-Dentify pencil, Edge Precision Brow Pencil, Glam Attack Liquid Eyeshadows, and so much more. Jenna Rosenstein, Harper's BAZAAR, 21 June 2021 At those times, nothing resembling paper was sacred from my pencil. Sarah Schutte, National Review, 20 June 2021 For three summers in the late 1950s, George Stranahan lived in a remote mountain valley near Aspen, Colo., with his only professional tools a pencil and a piece of paper. Alex Traub, New York Times, 20 June 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Don’t pencil in 2022 Farmington guard Collin Chandler to Utah just yet. Josh Newman, The Salt Lake Tribune, 24 June 2021 With rates materially lower, greenfield projects should be easier to pencil in the nation as companies look to diversify supply chains and protect their margins. Decio Nascimento, Forbes, 2 June 2021 With a lucky bounce, a team and its fans should be able to expect to pencil in a sure thing for at least a decade. Rahat Huq, Chron, 21 June 2021 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

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Buying Guide

Our team at The Usage has selected the best kids' desks of 2021.

Learn More About pencil

Time Traveler for pencil

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for pencil

Last Updated

18 Jul 2021

Cite this Entry

“Pencil.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Jul. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

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


Test Your Vocabulary

Dog Words Quiz

  • shiba puppy more or less demanding cuddles
  • Which of the following animals has a dog in its etymology?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


Anagram puzzles meet word search.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!