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

Whereas Jessica is all tailored pencil skirts and no-nonsense attitude, Gina walks in looking relaxed in wide-leg jeans, a chambray shirt, and baseball hat. Bethany Hemitan,, "This is How Gina Torres Deals With Mom Guilt: 'You Want to Be All Things All the Time, and You Just Can’t Be'," 11 June 2019 Wrap pencil with washi tape keeping it as tight as possible. Sarah Newell, Seventeen, "11 Ridiculously Awesome DIY Gifts for Your BFFs," 12 Sep. 2018 The line also includes Boy de Chanel brow pencils in four shades. Jenna Rosenstein, Harper's BAZAAR, "Chanel Is Launching a Makeup Line For Men," 20 Aug. 2018 When Spearman put her hand on the handle to keep the door open, the sliding door lurched back into its recess pocket in the wall, mashing Spearman's hand into a space only big enough to fit a pencil. Chabeli Herrera, miamiherald, "A door on a Royal Caribbean ship crushed her hand. She sued for $20.3 million — and won," 4 June 2018 There’s a model of a sleeping Cash, as well—complete with his signature pencil-thin mustache—carrying another mannequin on his shoulders. Vogue, "Rick Owens and Estonian Rapper Tommy Cash Stage a Wonderfully Weird Exhibition," 3 May 2019 For convenience, the sticks come with a jumbo pencil sharpener, and the all-over stick has a brush on the other end. Shannon Barbour, The Cut, "This Palette Was Made for Doing Makeup on the Go," 31 May 2018 Could Dixon draw the hole with his colored pencils? Tim Dahlberg, The Seattle Times, "The Masters drawing that helped free a man from prison," 13 Apr. 2019 As for school supplies, everything from pens and pencils to backpacks and lunch boxes will be on sale. Amina Lake Abdelrahman, Good Housekeeping, "Target Is Holding a Major Online Sale on Amazon Prime Day," 16 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

So, the first-year appropriation of $1.6 million was penciled into the BSO’s forecast, Beckwith said. Mary Carole Mccauley,, "A 'going concern'? BSO predicated financial fate on thinnest of margins, wishful thinking," 14 June 2019 Russia and Germany signed an agreement in 2007 with launch penciled in for 2012. Daniel Clery, Science | AAAS, "Telescope designed to study mysterious dark energy keeps Russia’s space science hopes alive," 10 June 2019 At that gathering Fed officials penciled in two rate increases for 2019. WSJ, "Fed’s Williams: Now Is Time for Fed to Show ‘Prudence, Patience and Good Judgment’," 18 Jan. 2019 Nvidia’s outlook for the current quarter of $2.20 billion in revenue fell short of the $2.28 billion analysts had penciled in. Asa Fitch, WSJ, "Nvidia’s Revenue Sinks 24%, but Wall Street Feared Worse," 14 Feb. 2019 Stretching and other recovery classes may also be a good choice for devoted exercisers who have a hard time penciling in rest days. Jenny Mccoy, SELF, "What Is a Stretch Studio? Here’s What You Need to Know About This Growing Fitness Trend," 24 Feb. 2019 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

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

18 Jun 2019

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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

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