pris·​on | \ ˈpri-zᵊn How to pronounce prison (audio) \

Definition of prison

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a state of confinement or captivity
2 : a place of confinement especially for lawbreakers specifically : an institution (such as one under state jurisdiction) for confinement of persons convicted of serious crimes — compare jail


prisoned; prisoning; prisons

Definition of prison (Entry 2 of 2)

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Synonyms for prison

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, penitentiary, pokey [slang], quod [British slang], slam, slammer, stir [slang], stockade, tolbooth [Scottish]

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Examples of prison in a Sentence


The state plans to build two more prisons. He was in prison at the time. If caught, they're all going to prison. She was sent to prison for robbery. He was released from prison. He's scheduled to get out of prison next month. Her marriage became a prison to her.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Other states with the death penalty, and federal prisons, have less strict conditions. The Economist, "What it’s like to spend half a life in solitary confinement," 5 June 2019 Also: Singapore outlaws fake news, allows government to block, remove it Farrera Brochez said he was raped and tortured in prison before being deported in 2018 to Kentucky and was determined to seek redress. Chris Kenning, The Courier-Journal, "Kentucky man convicted of stealing HIV registry to blackmail Singapore and free husband," 5 June 2019 Peterson faces a maximum sentence of nearly 100 years in prison if convicted on all counts, a combination of felonies and misdemeanors. Curt Anderson, Anchorage Daily News, "Legal experts question arrest of Florida deputy over lack of action during school massacre," 5 June 2019 Dawkins was sentenced to six months in prison by a federal judge in March. Emily Caron,, "Ex-USC Assistant Tony Bland Sentenced in College Basketball Corruption Trial," 5 June 2019 Nida was sentenced to eight years in prison on fraud charges back in 2014. Paula Rogo, Essence, "'Real Housewives of Atlanta's' Apollo Nida Released From Prison," 5 June 2019 The charges carry a maximum potential sentence of 96-and-a-half years in state prison, the Broward State Attorney's Office said. NBC News, "Former Parkland security officer Scot Peterson charged with neglect for not entering school," 4 June 2019 Opened in 1880, Folsom is the state's second-oldest prison, after San Quentin, and the first in the United States to have electricity. Wes Venteicher, sacbee, "California prison guards get a raise in tentative deal with Gavin Newsom’s administration," 4 June 2019 Little, 78, is in a California state prison, department of corrections spokeswoman Vicky Waters said. Wire Service, The Mercury News, "California killer who has confessed to over 90 murders indicted in connection with Ohio cold cases," 3 June 2019

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


12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


14th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for prison


Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin prehension-, prehensio act of seizing, from prehendere to seize — more at get

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Statistics for prison

Last Updated

8 Jun 2019

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Time Traveler for prison

The first known use of prison was in the 12th century

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More Definitions for prison



English Language Learners Definition of prison

: a building where people are kept as punishment for a crime or while they are waiting to go to court
: a place or situation from which you cannot escape


pris·​on | \ ˈpri-zᵊn How to pronounce prison (audio) \

Kids Definition of prison

: a place where criminals are locked up



Legal Definition of prison

: an institution usually under state control for confinement of persons serving sentences for serious crimes — compare house of correction, house of detention, jail, lockup, penitentiary

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More from Merriam-Webster on prison

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with prison

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for prison

Spanish Central: Translation of prison

Nglish: Translation of prison for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of prison for Arabic Speakers

Comments on prison

What made you want to look up prison? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


incapable of being surmounted or overcome

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