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 Bessner was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in 2019 and was sentenced to five to 15 years in prison, according to court documents., "The family of the teenager, Damon Grimes, will receive $7.8 million from the settlement, and family lawyers will receive about $4 million, according to court documents.," 1 Jan. 2020 Firing celebratory gunshots is a Class 6 felony in Arizona, punishable by up to two years in prison. Rebekah L. Sanders, azcentral, "Phoenix toddler injured by New Year's Eve gunfire," 1 Jan. 2020 Celebratory gunfire can be classified as deadly conduct, a misdemeanor offense that carries a punishment of up to $4,000 fine or up to one year in prison. Nick Powell, Houston Chronicle, "Woman killed by stray bullet during New Year celebration," 1 Jan. 2020 Earlier this month, a judge in Story County, Iowa, sentenced Adolfo Martinez to a preposterous 16 years in prison for swiping the rainbow flag from a nearby church and burning it in front of a strip club. Myron Magnet, WSJ, "‘Hate Crime’ Is Only a Step Away From Thoughtcrime," 1 Jan. 2020 The charges Ghosn faces carry a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison. CBS News, "Ex-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn says he left Japan over "injustice"," 31 Dec. 2019 Zhang Renli was sentenced to two years in prison and fined 1 million yuan. USA TODAY, "Scientist who claimed to make world's first gene-edited babies sentenced to 3 years," 30 Dec. 2019 Judge Grant Hawkins handed down a 55-year sentence, 45 of which Cooper will serve in prison. Crystal Hill, Indianapolis Star, "'I'm full of regret': Killer gets 55 years for Indianapolis grocery store murder," 30 Dec. 2019 Its owner, Gary Sayers, was sentenced by a federal judge in November to a year in prison for operating an unlicensed hazardous waste storage facility. Steve Pepple, Detroit Free Press, "Gov. Whitmer says her office reviewing criminal charges against 'green ooze' polluter," 30 Dec. 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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Time Traveler for prison

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for prison

Last Updated

5 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Prison.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 18 January 2020.

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More Definitions for prison


How to pronounce prison (audio)

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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for prison

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with prison

Spanish Central: Translation of prison

Nglish: Translation of prison for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of prison for Arabic Speakers

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