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 Government watchdogs and attorneys representing detainees have criticized the facility, run by the private-prison company GEO Group, for years for violations of detention standards and substandard medical and dental care. Martin Estacio, USA TODAY, "‘We can’t take a break’: Advocates continue to push for release of Adelanto’s immigrant detainees amid COVID-19," 5 July 2020 As of Thursday there were 1,383 active cases in the prison, which houses about 3,400 inmates, officials said. Greg Moran, Los Angeles Times, "Death row inmate Scott Erskine, who murdered two boys in San Diego, dies of COVID-19," 4 July 2020 But even a snail is bound to find prison life dreary. The Economist, "Snails in a cell A lockdown opera pays tribute to a political prisoner in Turkey," 4 July 2020 In April, the same prison was the subject of a U.S. Justice Department report that detailed many of the same allegations. Fox News, "Sex-for-toilet-paper scandal alleged by New Jersey female inmates: report," 4 July 2020 The 66-year-old was found dead in his Manhattan prison cell in August, which the New York City medical examiner determined to be a suicide. Mike Brest, Washington Examiner, "'Just as evil as Jeffrey Epstein': Woman claims Ghislaine Maxwell raped her dozens of times," 3 July 2020 The masks were made by inmates in the Douglas and Florence prison complexes who work for the Arizona Correctional Industries' garment program. Lauren Castle, The Arizona Republic, "Arizona inmates now have masks, prison officials say," 3 July 2020 Thursday marked the third-highest single-day total, surpassed only by two days of intensive prison testing April 19-20. Robert Higgs, cleveland, "Cleveland reports new single-day record for confirmed coronavirus cases, 2 more deaths reported," 3 July 2020 The two flight attendants, who were not under custody, face a one-year prison term each if convicted of not reporting a crime. Washington Post, "Turkey: pilots on trial over Ghosn escape released from jail," 3 July 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

7 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Prison.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 13 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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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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