sten·​cil | \ ˈsten(t)-səl How to pronounce stencil (audio) \

Definition of stencil

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : an impervious material (such as a sheet of paper, thin wax, or woven fabric) perforated with lettering or a design through which a substance (such as ink, paint, or metallic powder) is forced onto a surface to be printed
2 : something (such as a pattern, design, or print) that is produced by means of a stencil
3 : a printing process that uses a stencil


stenciled or stencilled; stenciling or stencilling\ ˈsten(t)-​s(ə-​)liŋ How to pronounce stencilling (audio) \

Definition of stencil (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to mark or paint with a stencil
2 : to produce by stencil

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Other Words from stencil


stenciler or stenciller \ ˈsten(t)-​s(ə-​)lər How to pronounce stenciller (audio) \ noun

Examples of stencil in a Sentence


The walls of the living room had a delicate vine stencil drawn on them.


We stenciled the room's walls.

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Uranium-thorium dating of the calcite that had run over the art (a red dot, a red ladder, a red hand-stencil) showed this art to have been made, there in the darkness, around 65,000 years BP. Tobias Carroll, Longreads, "‘The Underland Is a Deeply Human Realm’: Getting Down with Robert Macfarlane," 20 June 2019 Use this as your stencil, and trace the design on the backside of glitter card stock, and cut it out. Sarah Newell, Seventeen, "15 Amazing Prom Hacks To Make It Your Most Stylish Night Ever," 6 Jan. 2017 Rip out your pages of choice, flip them over, and draw around your stencils in pen; then cut out your magazine leaves. Lauren Oster, Redbook, "Autumn DIY: Paper-and-Glass Leaf Votives," 18 Nov. 2010 Use the stencil to cut 5 small squares from glitter paper. Sarah Newell, Seventeen, "11 Ridiculously Awesome DIY Gifts for Your BFFs," 12 Sep. 2018 For the prints and patterns, Smith was inspired by French ticking stripes, Japanese katazome stencils, and hints of Moroccan textiles. Lucia Tonelli, ELLE Decor, "The Inside Collaborates with Blogger Victoria Smith on a Sumptuous Boho Collection," 31 Jan. 2019 Transfer royal icing to piping bag fitted with size 2 tip and use stencil as a guide to pipe snowflakes on top. Woman's Day Kitchen, Woman's Day, "Double White Chocolate Cake," 29 Nov. 2018 The wedding cakes were individual tarte Tropéziennes and, following the wabi-sabi theme, were customized with each guest’s name in different colors (the stencils were hand-designed by Jean-Baptiste who also created the place settings). Vogue, "Stylist Lolita Jacobs’s Effortlessly Chic Wedding in the South of France," 26 July 2018 Once cooled, use our printable stencils to cut out doors, shutters, trailer fin, wheels, antler mount, and other smaller pieces. Amanda Garrity, Good Housekeeping, "Build the Ultimate Rustic Gingerbread House With These Easy-to-Follow Stencils," 14 Nov. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

One wall is stenciled with a hail of bombs and a helicopter— references to Hawaii’s military ties. Jenna Sauers, Harper's BAZAAR, "Indigenous Female Artists Take Center Stage in Hawaii," 12 July 2019 The Rangers held a moment of silence before the game, stenciled Skaggs’s No. Tyler Kepner, New York Times, "After Tyler Skaggs’s Death, Angels Return to Routine Without Answers," 2 July 2019 Experts rebuilt the pattern and stencilled the designs. Judy Rose, Detroit Free Press, "Kresge mansion, one of Detroit's largest, is about to hit the market," 8 June 2019 Kaihoi stenciled the floors and put in new windows, working nights after the demolition crews had left (the floor took three weeks, start to finish). Whitney Robinson, ELLE Decor, "How an Uninhabitable "Dump" Became a Stunning Family Home in the East Village," 11 May 2018 For Rei Kawakubo, another Japanese designer, traditional kimono fabric techniques like dyeing and stenciling are sources of inspiration—particularly shibori, a tie-dye method in which small sections of cloth are wrapped in thread. Susan Delson, WSJ, "Kimonos Meet Couture," 12 Oct. 2018 Howells began his adventures in design stenciling the floors of the Laura Ashley boutique in the early 1980s, then at the nexus of boho London aristo society. Hamish Bowles, Vogue, "Hamish Bowles Remembers Michael Howells," 19 July 2018 True, Wojnarowicz’s formal means — stenciling, spray painting, collaging — are anti-academic. New York Times, "He Spoke Out During the AIDS Crisis. See Why His Art Still Matters.," 12 July 2018 The formal dining room has original wainscot and walls painted sky blue with a pattern of gold stenciled fleur-de-lis. Janet Eastman,, "Glory days return to gilded 1882 Italianate mansion built for Portland shoe merchant (photos)," 24 Apr. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'stencil.' 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 stencil


1707, in the meaning defined at sense 1


circa 1828, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for stencil


probably ultimately from Middle English stanseld brightly ornamented, from Anglo-French estencelé spangled, past participle of estenceler to sparkle, from estencele spark, from Vulgar Latin *stincilla, alteration of Latin scintilla

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Statistics for stencil

Last Updated

21 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for stencil

The first known use of stencil was in 1707

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More Definitions for stencil



English Language Learners Definition of stencil

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a piece of paper, metal, etc., that has a design, letter, etc., cut out of it
: a design or a print that is made with a stencil



English Language Learners Definition of stencil (Entry 2 of 2)

: to make a design on something with a stencil : to use a stencil on (something)


sten·​cil | \ ˈsten-səl How to pronounce stencil (audio) \

Kids Definition of stencil

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a piece of material (as a sheet of paper or plastic) that has lettering or a design cut out and is used as a guide (as in painting or drawing)
2 : a pattern, design, or print produced with a stencil


stenciled or stencilled; stenciling or stencilling

Kids Definition of stencil (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to mark or paint with a stencil I stenciled a box with designs.
2 : to produce with a stencil Stencil the number on the paper.

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More from Merriam-Webster on stencil

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with stencil

Spanish Central: Translation of stencil

Nglish: Translation of stencil for Spanish Speakers

Comments on stencil

What made you want to look up stencil? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


something desired as essential

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