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

bastille, big house [slang], bridewell, brig, calaboose, can, clink [slang], cooler, coop, guardroom, hock, hold, hoosegow, jail, jailhouse, joint [slang], jug, lockup, nick [British slang], pen, penitentiary, pokey [slang], quod [British slang], slam, slammer, stir [slang], stockade, tolbooth [Scottish]

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Examples of prison in a Sentence


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

John Clyde Willis, a manager for Baker Hughes, faces up to 20 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine for the most serious charges if convicted, the statement said. Alex Demarban, Anchorage Daily News, "Grand jury indicts oilfield company for felonies after workers say they were injured by chemical release," 12 Sep. 2019 The former Wildcat coach was sentenced in June to three months in prison and two years of supervised release for his role in the NCAA basketball federal bribery case. Emily Caron,, "Former Arizona Assistant Book Richardson Paid $40K for Player's Eligiblity," 11 Sep. 2019 Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Rosemarie Scher sentenced Edwards to 12 years in state prison for her manslaughter-of-a-child conviction. Marc Freeman,, "Woman who cracked nephew baby’s skull gets 12 years," 11 Sep. 2019 All told, half of all adults in the United States—or about 113 million people—have seen an immediate family member go to jail or prison for at least one night. Marie Gottschalk, The New Republic, "The Democrats’ Shameful Legacy on Crime," 11 Sep. 2019 Among the winning small-cap stocks Monday were video-game retailer GameStop, which jumped 10.4 percent, and prison operator GEO Group, which rose 2.6 percent., "The S&P 500 ended virtually flat as losses in technology and health care stocks outweighed gains in financials and other sectors. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks, which has lagged the S&P 500 this year, outpaced the rest of the market.," 10 Sep. 2019 Several dozen more Ukrainian citizens, sentenced on equally spurious charges, remain in Russian prisons. Masha Gessen, The New Yorker, "The Release of Oleg Sentsov and the Plight of Those Left Behind," 10 Sep. 2019 When Cash played his first prison concert at San Quentin in 1958, a young Merle Haggard was among the inmates listening. Jeanne Jakle,, "Love and loss at the heart of Ken Burns’ ‘Country Music’," 10 Sep. 2019 As a judge in Boston prepares to sentence parents in the college admissions cheating scandal, prosecutors, defense lawyers and others are battling over unresolved questions: Is prison the right punishment? Los Angeles Times, "In college admissions scandal a judge must decide: Does it matter how much parents paid?," 10 Sep. 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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Statistics for prison

Last Updated

14 Sep 2019

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Time Traveler for prison

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

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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

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More from Merriam-Webster on prison

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with prison

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for 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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recurring in steady succession

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