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 app’s features are pretty simple for now, with a basic toolbar consisting of pencil, pen, marker, chalk, and eraser tools, in addition to a color palette. Dami Lee, The Verge, "Google’s Chrome Canvas is a handy browser app for quick doodles," 20 Dec. 2018 The beauty world is still resuscitating itself from the sight of Rihanna and her pencil-thin eyebrows on the September cover of British Vogue. Leah Prinzivalli, Allure, "Makeup Artist Alissa Ashley Recreated Rihanna's Vogue Cover and the Resemblance Is Uncanny," 8 Aug. 2018 Here's how we're used to seeing hunky male superstars in their downtime: tuxedoed up on the red carpet, holding hands with pencil-thin beauties. Sheila Weller, Good Housekeeping, "Meet Mr. Romance: Hugh Jackman," 11 July 2013 For this, scientists and engineers have turned to the only option available when pencil and paper failed them—the computer. Lee Phillips, Ars Technica, "Turbulence, the oldest unsolved problem in physics," 10 Oct. 2018 Four patients obtained screws, paper clips, and a razor from a pencil sharpener and used them to harm themselves, the records say. Fred Clasen-kelly, Julianna Rennie And Cassie Cope, charlotteobserver, "Teen alleges psych center therapist was 'touching me in a way I hated,' NC report says," 27 June 2018 There were four old pencil sharpeners and five alarm clocks, none set to the same time. Christopher Borrelli,, "Cartoonist Carol Tyler recounts her Beatles-obsessed childhood in Chicago," 15 June 2018 Step 3: Use the taper tool, which resembles an oversized pencil sharpener, to taper one end of the shaft to fit your nock. Andrew Del-colle And Lara Sorokanich, Popular Mechanics, "How to Make a Bow and Arrow By Hand," 5 June 2018 The Ohio Players episode from '74 reminds me of when my dad first brought me the Deluxe 100 Crayola with the pencil-sharpener box. Clay Skipper, GQ, "Questlove on How Distractions Can Be Creatively Fruitful and the Time He Binged Every Episode of Friends," 18 Apr. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The numbers just don’t pencil out in Manhattan, especially for rentals. Josh Barbanel, WSJ, "A Building Boom Pushes New York City Outward," 28 Oct. 2018 From a cost-per-game perspective, buying the headset exclusively for the NBA in VR probably doesn’t pencil out for most people. Ben Golliver,, "Putting the NBA in Virtual Reality to the Test," 20 Apr. 2018 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

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

12 Feb 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 \

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

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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

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).


to express emotion in a dramatic way

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