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 inpenciled 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 Put a pencil in between your breasts and practice signing your name with it. Alex Beggs, The New Yorker, "Literally the Only Workout for Your Wedding-Dress Silhouette," 29 Aug. 2019 Hassman was good at pencil drawings and her teacher encouraged her artistic abilities. Lyndi Mcnulty,, "An Eye for Art: Artist’s lifelong fascination with color brings power to her work," 31 July 2019 Classes chosen receive a KidsPost Chesapeake Bay or Journey to Space poster, a KidsPost pencil for each student and a selection of books. Dara Elasfar, Washington Post, "September’s Class of KidsPost: Fourth-graders at North Chevy Chase Elementary," 15 Sep. 2019 The Zips debuted a pencil Saturday during their game with UAB. Mark Heim |, al, "Akron rocks ‘turnover pencil’ against UAB, almost causes injury," 7 Sep. 2019 Using a pencil to shade in the words, Ani learns that Bryce was writing a letter to Jessica. Kaitlin Reilly,, "R29 Binge Club: 13 Reasons Why Season 3 Recap," 24 Aug. 2019 Employing only graphite pencil and Bristol paper, Beltz produces elaborate patterned drawings that also dwell on the cosmic. Los Angeles Times, "Datebook: Stark domestic scenes by German painter Lenz Geerk," 13 Sep. 2019 My son was in charge of filling his backpack with a stuffed animal of choice, pencils and crayons, and a diary to draw in. Nevin Martell, Washington Post, "How to travel solo with your child (so you both actually enjoy it)," 6 Sep. 2019 The 15 campers walked through their neighborhood, paper and pencils in hand. Amelia Nierenberg, New York Times, "Urban-Farming Camps Have Kids Asking, Where’s the Healthy Food?," 30 Aug. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The President told me to pencil you in to half past Go F— Yourself. Dan Snierson,, "Veep finale: See deleted scene with Jonah as VP," 11 Sep. 2019 Manager Dave Roberts has penciled in Hill for four starts this month, the last one scheduled for the Sept. 29 regular-season finale at San Francisco. Mike Digiovanna, Los Angeles Times, "Ned Colletti to remain as SportsNet LA Dodgers analyst while scouting for NHL team," 6 Sep. 2019 He was rewarded for his efforts during Saturday’s game, as manager Rocco Baldelli penciled him in as the cleanup hitter for the first time this season. Dane Mizutani, Twin Cities, "Is strikeout-prone Twins slugger Miguel Sano finally starting to figure it out?," 21 July 2019 And for all the strides that Derrick Jones Jr. has made, still not sure about penciling him in as a rotation player. Ira Winderman,, "ASK IRA: Odd man out of Heat starting lineup: Waiters? Winslow? Johnson? Olynyk? Dragic?," 23 Aug. 2019 The Padres have Dinelson Lamet, Chris Paddack and Garrett Richards penciled in their rotation for 2020. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Lauer falls on Rockies ground again, Padres fall just short again," 14 Sep. 2019 Now, Mancini is one of a few names that Hyde can pencil into his lineup every day, along with Jonathan Villar, Anthony Santander, Renato Núñez and Hanser Alberto. Jon Meoli,, "Orioles and manager Brandon Hyde admire Dodgers’ platoon system," 11 Sep. 2019 And with last year's number one draft pick Baker Mayfield at quarterback and newly-traded for Odell Beckham Jr. at wide receiver, many were even penciling in the Browns for a spot in Super Bowl LIV. Ben Morse, CNN, "NFL week one: Death, taxes ... and the New England Patriots unfurling a NFL championship banner," 9 Sep. 2019 Two games in, go ahead and pencil Clemson into the CFP as the ACC champion. Los Angeles Times, "Jim Harbaugh’s play calls and results show Michigan isn’t as good as he thinks it is," 7 Sep. 2019

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

5 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for pencil

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

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More Definitions for pencil


How to pronounce pencil (audio)

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

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).


something of little or no value

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