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

bastille, big house [slang], bridewell, brig, calaboose, can, clink [slang], cooler, coop, guardroom, hock, hold, hoosegow, jail, jailhouse, joint [slang], jug, lockup, nick [British slang], pen, pokey [slang], prison, quod [British slang], slam, slammer, stir [slang], stockade, tolbooth [Scottish]

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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 April 2018, officials at the Coleman II penitentiary requested that he be sent to a federal medical facility, but it was rejected by the Bureau of Prisons, according to records obtained by NBC News. NBC News, "'Whitey' Bulger prison letters: Love for Trump, disdain for Mueller," 8 June 2019 After the penitentiary was vacated, the city of San Francisco was going to turn it over to a billionaire. Delilah Friedler, Teen Vogue, "Activist LaNada War Jack of the Bannock Nation Details Her Time Occupying Alcatraz," 21 Mar. 2019 The nation’s most famous political prisoner, Debs spent 2½ years at a federal penitentiary in Georgia. Erick Trickey, Smithsonian, "When America’s Most Prominent Socialist Was Jailed for Speaking Out Against World War I," 15 June 2018 As a consequence, none of the existing penitentiaries can accommodate high-security inmates, and this has long presented Greenland with a problem. Sarah Lazarus, CNN, "Humane prison to bring Greenland's most dangerous criminals home," 16 Mar. 2018 Jackley's office said the warden of the state penitentiary will choose the specific time and date, which will be announced within 48 hours of the execution. James Nord, Fox News, "South Dakota sets execution for man in prison guard's death," 9 Aug. 2018 Under the deal, the government moved leaders from solitary confinement and maximum-security penitentiaries to more permissive detention. Robbie Whelan, WSJ, "Why Are People Fleeing Central America? A New Breed of Gangs Is Taking Over.," 2 Nov. 2018 One of my favorites was about the two inmates going through the food line for dinner at the state penitentiary. Lauren Hubbard, Town & Country, "Read the Full Transcript of Former Senator Joe Lieberman's Speech at John McCain's Memorial Service," 1 Sep. 2018 In July 1972, at the invitation of Sen. William E. Brock III (R-Tenn.), Cash testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on national penitentiaries. Allison Stewart, Washington Post, "At Folsom prison, Johnny Cash found his cause," 28 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

In autumn 2016 there was the first match between two penitentiary rugby teams, in Bologna. Alan Dymock, CNN, "Beyond the bars: How rugby is reforming Italian prisoners," 18 Apr. 2018 The Special Victims Division is headquartered in a gray brick building on Avenue C, where the front doors are routinely stuck halfway open and, at night, roof floodlights give the humble edifice a penitentiary glare. Kathy Dobie, Daily Intelligencer, "To Catch a Predator," 16 Mar. 2018 Lighting by Michael Boll is penitentiary bright by day and crepuscular at night. Andrea Simakis, cleveland.com, "Ayad Akhtar's hostage drama 'The Invisible Hand' at Cleveland Play House: There will be blood, on all sides (review)," 28 Feb. 2018 Two years ago, federal inmate No. 24434-149 walked out of a penitentiary wearing black trousers and a white button-down shirt. Martin Kuz, San Antonio Express-News, "Obama set him free. Then he landed back in prison.," 7 Jan. 2018 That’s when Haggard, then 20 and a San Quentin, Calif., penitentiary inmate, in for 15 years on a burglary charge, heard the up-and-coming Johnny Cash play his first prison concert. Lisa Legge, Twin Cities, "Famous birthdays Jan. 1; and: Johnny Cash inspires Merle Haggard, inmate," 6 Jan. 2017

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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Statistics for penitentiary

Last Updated

15 Jun 2019

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Time Traveler for penitentiary

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

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More Definitions for penitentiary

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

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