pen·​cil | \ ˈpen(t)-səl \

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 \

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

The Federal Reserve’s December decision to raise interest rates and to pencil in two more increases for 2019 is likely to keep inflation expectations lower, analysts and investors said. Daniel Kruger, WSJ, "Inflation Was a Bad Bet Last Year," 3 Jan. 2019 Wood-case eye pencils are the most sustainable eyeliners since they’re made with renewable material and get sharpened down to nothing. Meirav Devash, Allure, "I Tried a Sustainable Beauty Routine for a Month to See How Easy It Is to Go Green," 15 Oct. 2018 For makeup, Nars Bahama lip pencil or my blush in Petale are my signatures. Ying Chu, Glamour, "Makeup Artist Gucci Westman's New Line Is Paradise for Finicky Skin," 27 Apr. 2018 This ultra-slim, retractable pencil is head and shoulders above its other products. Jessica Teich, USA TODAY, "Ulta is having an amazing sale on all the expensive makeup you love," 21 Mar. 2018 Dani Ochoa's version of the famous Star Wars cantina song using nothing but pencil and paper is unconventional, but also blindly delightful and just absolutely spot on. Eric Limer, Popular Mechanics, "The Star Wars Cantina Theme Played with Pencil Strokes Is Unspeakably Delightful," 12 Jan. 2018 The pencil should be able to move freely without being pinched when the hinges are closed. The Good Housekeeping Institute, Good Housekeeping, "How We Tested Baby Strollers," 11 Oct. 2010 When our whimsical protagonist tries to offer her ex a peace offering — a gift of magical colored pencils and an enchanted eggnog — Harvey refuses to accept. Tess Garcia, Teen Vogue, "Kiernan Shipka on Sabrina and Harvey's Fate in "Chilling Adventures of Sabrina"," 16 Dec. 2018 Anastasia Beverly Hills’ brow pencils listed above would be great for faking freckles, or try BBB London’s Ultra Slim Brow Definer, $20. Talia Abbas, SELF, "How to Apply Makeup When You Have Freckles, According to Makeup Artists," 3 Dec. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

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 No timetables have beet set as to when any of the three players could return, but Lovullo said Delgado is penciled in to pitch again for Reno on Tuesday. Richard Morin, azcentral, "Diamondbacks place Deven Marrero on DL, recall Jimmie Sherfy," 30 June 2018 Aside from the launch itself, there's a long, glam list of related events to pencil into your calendar ASAP. Leah Prinzivalli, Allure, "Charlotte Tilbury's Makeup Is Finally Coming to Sephora," 7 Aug. 2018 The Fed raised rates in September for the third time this year, while penciling in one more rate increase for this year and three for 2019. Daniel Kruger, WSJ, "U.S. Government Bonds Decline on Improved Risk Sentiment," 29 Oct. 2018 Of course, young people aren’t contenting themselves with penciling in dates and meetings the way previous generations have. Oset Babur, Vox, "Why do millennials love bullet journals? Control.," 22 Oct. 2018 JPMorgan Chase economists have penciled in 3.5 percent. Christopher Rugaber, The Seattle Times, "Fact-checking Trump’s week of economic and other fictions," 13 Aug. 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.

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

Learn More about pencil

Statistics for pencil

Last Updated

15 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for pencil

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

See more words from the same century

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 \

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 \

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

Keep scrolling for more

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).


marked by shyness and lack of polish

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Liar, Liar Quiz

  • alt-5761dbe2ba986
  • Someone who pretends to be sick in order to avoid work is a:
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

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