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 Mr Miller was stabbed while in prison; two people have been tried for his murder. The Economist, "America’s homicide rate has declined since the 1990s. So have homicide-clearance rates," 8 May 2021 Based on sentencing guidelines, Kovalenko faces between two and three years in prison, though Pearson does not have to follow the guidelines. John Caniglia, cleveland, "Former priest plans to plead guilty to stealing nearly $300,000 from 3 Northeast Ohio parishes, filing says," 6 May 2021 Dear Amy: My brother's daughter has decided to marry an ex-convict who has spent nearly half of his life in prison for rape, assault, destruction of property and other crimes. Washington Post, "Ask Amy: Longtime partner’s online gaming leads to more," 6 May 2021 Jung met Medellin kingpin Carlos Lehder Rivas in prison in the 1970s and later became part of his operation., "George Jung, Weymouth native and notorious ex-cocaine trafficker played by Johnny Depp in movie, ‘Blow,’ dies at 78," 6 May 2021 He is later sentenced to five years and six months in prison. Cnn Editorial Research, CNN, "Guantanamo Bay Naval Station Fast Facts," 6 May 2021 In the film Shawshank Redemption, an elderly character named Brooks gets released after 50 years in prison. Philip Klein, National Review, "People Have Gotten ‘Institutionalized’ by COVID," 6 May 2021 Wolfe was sentenced Tuesday to three years and five months in prison. NBC News, "Man sentenced to 3 years in Minneapolis police precinct fire after George Floyd's death," 6 May 2021 The third and final suspect in a 2019 killing of a man who was shot while collecting cans in North Portland was sentenced to 20 years in prison, court officials said Wednesday. oregonlive, "3rd teen sentenced for 2019 murder of man killed while collecting cans in North Portland," 6 May 2021 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

9 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Prison.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 May. 2021.

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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

Comments on prison

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