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 In New Jersey, drivers caught using a placard illegally may be subject to a fine of up to $10,000 and 18 months in prison. Cari Shane, Car and Driver, "Violators Will Be Ticketed: Fighting Disability-Parking-Placard Fraud," 21 June 2020 In the Brooks case, the 27-year-old former officer could face life in prison or even the death penalty if convicted. Fox News, "Ex-Atlanta cop in Brooks case waives court appearance, was linked to 2015 shooting: reports," 20 June 2020 In 1967, boxer Muhammad Ali was convicted in Houston of violating Selective Service laws by refusing to be drafted and was sentenced to five years in prison., "This day in history," 20 June 2020 In part of that excerpt, Brooks told the Reconnect interviewer that he was arrested for false imprisonment and financial credit card fraud, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to one year in prison. Lorenzo Reyes, USA TODAY, "Rayshard Brooks opened up about struggles, incarceration months before death. He wasn't going to 'give up'.," 19 June 2020 Petersen, who appeared in court by video from Arizona, faces up to 15 years in prison and a $50,000 fine. Robert Anglen, azcentral, "Paul Petersen admits to human smuggling in Utah as part of international adoption scheme," 19 June 2020 They were sentenced to life in prison after eyewitness testimony. NBC News, "Malcolm Scott, wrongfully convicted of murder, hopes to see shift in wake of George Floyd protests," 19 June 2020 The felony murder charge against Rolfe, 27, carries life in prison or the death penalty, if prosecutors decide to seek it. Kate Brumback, Anchorage Daily News, "Atlanta police call out sick to protest charges in officer’s shooting of black man," 19 June 2020 If convicted he could be sentenced to up to 25 years in prison. Clare Hymes, CBS News, "Feds take down sites that replaced prostitution and child sex trafficking portal," 19 June 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Nationwide, there is concern of devastating repercussions should prison populations suffer an outbreak. Carol Robinson |, al, "Alabama defense lawyers: Release prison inmates most at risk of dying from coronavirus," 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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Statistics for prison

Last Updated

25 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Prison.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Jul. 2020.

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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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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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