penitentiary

noun
pen·​i·​ten·​tia·​ry | \ ˌpe-nə-ˈten(t)-sh(ə-)rē How to pronounce penitentiary (audio) \
plural penitentiaries

Definition of penitentiary

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : an officer in some Roman Catholic dioceses vested with power from the bishop to deal with cases of a nature normally handled only by the bishop
b capitalized : a cardinal presiding over a tribunal of the Roman curia (see curia sense 3) concerned with dispensations (see dispensation sense 2) and indulgences
2 : a public institution in which offenders against the law are confined for detention or punishment specifically : a state or federal prison in the U.S. a federal penitentiary in Virginia

penitentiary

adjective
pen·​i·​ten·​tia·​ry | \ ˌpe-nə-ˈten(t)-sh(ə-)rē How to pronounce penitentiary (audio) , sense 1 also -ˈten(t)-shē-ˌer-ē \

Definition of penitentiary (Entry 2 of 2)

2 : of, relating to, or incurring confinement in a penitentiary

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Synonyms for penitentiary

Synonyms: Noun

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Examples of penitentiary in a Sentence

Noun a sentence in the state penitentiary for robbery
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun In May 2012, Schlichter was sentenced to nearly 11 years in the Federal Correctional Institute in Florence, Colorado, and 10 years in an Ohio penitentiary. Scott Horner, The Indianapolis Star, 2 Sep. 2021 And Roberts had been sent to a penitentiary full of Crips. Kevin O’kelly, The Christian Science Monitor, 15 July 2021 Active inmate cases at the Indiana penitentiary also spiked from just three on Nov. 19 — the day Orlando Cordia Hall was put to death — to 406 on Dec. 29, which was 18 days after Bourgeois' execution, according to Bureau of Prisons data. Michael Tarm, Star Tribune, 5 Feb. 2021 In July, days before the veteran GOP operative was scheduled to report to a federal penitentiary in Georgia, Trump commuted Stone's 40-month prison sentence. James Hill, ABC News, 9 Aug. 2021 In a blog post, Raven Zachery identified at least 42 PBM gamers in a Tucson penitentiary. Mark Hill, Wired, 10 June 2021 At a federal penitentiary in Texas, prisoners are locked in their cells on weekends because there are not enough guards to watch them. NBC News, 21 May 2021 At a federal penitentiary in Texas, prisoners are locked in their cells on weekends because there are not enough guards to watch them. Michael R. Sisak And Michael Balsamo, Star Tribune, 21 May 2021 John Hummel received a lethal injection at the state penitentiary in Huntsville for the December 2009 killings. Dallas News, 1 July 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The release said the penitentiary staff will contact those who had already bought tickets to issue refunds. From Usa Today Network And Wire Reports, USA TODAY, 19 Aug. 2021 On his final day in Folsom State Prison, Phi Pham paced the firehouse wondering what awaited him beyond the gray penitentiary wall. Dustin Gardiner, San Francisco Chronicle, 11 Aug. 2021 But those tranquil accounts are at odds with reports by The Associated Press and other media witnesses of how prisoners’ stomachs rolled, shook and shuddered as the pentobarbital took effect inside the U.S. penitentiary death chamber in Terre Haute. Michael Balsamo, Time, 2 July 2021 But those tranquil accounts are at odds with reports by The Associated Press and other media witnesses of how prisoners’ stomachs rolled, shook and shuddered as the pentobarbital took effect inside the U.S. penitentiary death chamber in Terre Haute. Anchorage Daily News, 2 July 2021 But those tranquil accounts are at odds with reports by The Associated Press and other media witnesses of how prisoners' stomachs rolled, shook and shuddered as the pentobarbital took effect inside the U.S. penitentiary death chamber in Terre Haute. CBS News, 1 July 2021 But those tranquil accounts are at odds with reports by The Associated Press and other media witnesses of how prisoners' stomachs rolled, shook and shuddered as the pentobarbital took effect inside the U.S. penitentiary death chamber in Terre Haute. Michael Balsamo, Star Tribune, 1 July 2021 Angel Island State Park is much bigger, less expensive and often 10 degrees warmer than its penitentiary brother to the south. Peter Hartlaub, San Francisco Chronicle, 19 June 2021 Bruce Turnidge, 69, suffered various health problems that prompted officials to return him to the state penitentiary to be closer to medical care. oregonlive, 14 June 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'penitentiary.' 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 penitentiary

Noun

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Adjective

1577, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for penitentiary

Noun and Adjective

Middle English penitenciary, from Medieval Latin poenitentiarius, from poenitentia

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Time Traveler for penitentiary

Time Traveler

The first known use of penitentiary was in the 15th century

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Dictionary Entries Near penitentiary

penitential psalm

penitentiary

penk

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Statistics for penitentiary

Last Updated

7 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Penitentiary.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/penitentiary. Accessed 23 Sep. 2021.

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More Definitions for penitentiary

penitentiary

noun

English Language Learners Definition of penitentiary

: prison

penitentiary

noun
pen·​i·​ten·​tia·​ry | \ ˌpe-nə-ˈten-shə-rē How to pronounce penitentiary (audio) \
plural penitentiaries

Kids Definition of penitentiary

: prison

penitentiary

noun
pen·​i·​ten·​tia·​ry | \ ˌpe-nə-ˈten-chə-rē How to pronounce penitentiary (audio) \
plural penitentiaries

Legal Definition of penitentiary

: a state or federal prison for the punishment and reformation of convicted felons — compare house of correction, house of detention, jail, lockup

More from Merriam-Webster on penitentiary

Nglish: Translation of penitentiary for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about penitentiary

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