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

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Examples of prison in a Sentence

Noun 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 The Biden Justice Department has also launched an investigation into Georgia's prison system for alleged civil rights violations. Tierney Sneed, CNN, 20 Oct. 2021 Some jails filled up because the state prison system stopped taking inmates from counties and later resumed at a reduced pace. Mike Cason |, al, 19 Oct. 2021 The prison system originally stopped visitation from March 12, 2020, until March 13 of this year. From Usa Today Network And Wire Reports, USA TODAY, 14 Oct. 2021 Lipman said investors can address society’s biggest challenges through collectively divesting from polluters and companies that perpetuate racial discrimination such as the private prison system., 13 Oct. 2021 Lipman said investors can address society’s biggest challenges through collectively divesting from polluters and companies that perpetuate racial discrimination such as the private prison system. Time, 12 Oct. 2021 There have been only 58 first-time dialogues from 2011-21 and at least 192 requests since 2017, according to the prison system. Los Angeles Times, 11 Oct. 2021 Human-rights observers said that the videos reflect the horrific reality in Russia’s prison system and are consistent with previous leaks and torture cases. Georgi Kantchev, WSJ, 6 Oct. 2021 The riots come amid an escalating cycle of violence in Ecuador’s prison system. Robert Hart, Forbes, 30 Sep. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Nationwide, there is concern of devastating repercussions should prison populations suffer an outbreak. Carol Robinson |, al, 27 Mar. 2020

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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Time Traveler for prison

Time Traveler

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

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Dictionary Entries Near prison



prison bars

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Statistics for prison

Last Updated

24 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Prison.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Oct. 2021.

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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

More from Merriam-Webster on prison

Nglish: Translation of prison for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of prison for Arabic Speakers


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