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[pen-suh-ling] /ˈpɛn sə lɪŋ/
work or markings done with or as if with a pencil or brush, especially fine or delicate work done with a pencil or brush on a painting or drawing.
a drawing or sketch made with a pencil.
Origin of penciling
First recorded in 1700-10; pencil + -ing1


[pen-suh l] /ˈpɛn səl/
a slender tube of wood, metal, plastic, etc., containing a core or strip of graphite, a solid coloring material, or the like, used for writing or drawing.
a stick of cosmetic coloring material for use on the eyebrows, eyelids, etc.
anything shaped or used like a pencil, as a stick of medicated material:
a styptic pencil.
a narrow set of lines, light rays, or the like, diverging from or converging to a point:
a pencil of sunlight.
a slender, pointed piece of a substance used for marking.
style or skill in drawing or delineation:
He favored the late products of the artist's pencil.
Mathematics. the collection of lines, planes, or surfaces passing through a given point or set of points and satisfying a given equation or condition.
Archaic. an artist's paintbrush, especially for fine work.
verb (used with object), penciled, penciling or (especially British) pencilled, pencilling.
to write, draw, mark, or color with, or as if with, a pencil.
to use a pencil on.
Verb phrases
pencil in, to schedule or list tentatively, as or as if by writing down in pencil rather than in ink:
I'll pencil you in for ten o'clock.
1350-1400; Middle English pencel < Middle French pincelLatin pēnicillus painter's brush or pencil, diminutive of pēniculus little tail. See penis, -cule1
Related forms
penciler; especially British, penciller, noun
pencillike, adjective
unpenciled, adjective
unpencilled, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for penciling
Historical Examples
  • The girl lifted the brows that were dark enough to require no penciling.

  • The penciling of this note gave Rodney time to recover himself.

    Night and Day Virginia Woolf
  • The Secretary nodded, penciling Frawley's correction on the paper.

    Murder in Any Degree Owen Johnson
  • penciling a brief note he gave it to a soldier of his company and bade him take it to the guard tents.

  • In the females solid yellow bills, fawn colored breasts and absence of penciling must be avoided.

    Ducks and Geese Harry M. Lamon
  • The penciling is like that of the Rouen but lighter in color consisting of a brown penciling on a fawn colored ground.

    Ducks and Geese Harry M. Lamon
  • Avoid lack of white on the neck in both sexes and avoid females which are lacking in penciling.

    Ducks and Geese Harry M. Lamon
  • The more elaborate patterns on earthenware, and all those on porcelain, are finished by penciling in.

  • penciling corrections on the map, they retraced their route, making only one mistake along the way.

    Mezzerow Loves Company Floyd L. Wallace
  • She put on her white suit, and dabbing rouge on her cheeks and penciling her eyes, she went forth into the sunshiny streets.

    The Next of Kin Nellie L. McClung
British Dictionary definitions for penciling


  1. a thin cylindrical instrument used for writing, drawing, etc, consisting of a rod of graphite or other marking substance, usually either encased in wood and sharpened or held in a mechanical metal device
  2. (as modifier): a pencil drawing
something similar in shape or function: a styptic pencil, an eyebrow pencil
a narrow set of lines or rays, such as light rays, diverging from or converging to a point
(archaic) an artist's fine paintbrush
(rare) an artist's individual style or technique in drawing
verb (transitive) -cils, -cilling, -cilled (US) -cils, -ciling, -ciled
to draw, colour, or write with a pencil
to mark with a pencil
pencil in, to note, arrange, include, etc provisionally or tentatively
Derived Forms
penciller, (US) penciler, noun
Word Origin
C14: from Old French pincel, from Latin pēnicillus painter's brush, from pēniculus a little tail, from pēnis tail
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for penciling



early 14c., "an artist's fine brush of camel hair," from Old French pincel "artist's paintbrush" (13c., Modern French pinceau), from Latin penicillus "painter's brush, hair-pencil," literally "little tail," diminutive of peniculus "brush," itself a diminutive of penis "tail" (see penis). Small brushes formerly were used for writing before modern lead or chalk pencils; meaning "graphite writing implement" apparently evolved late 16c. Derogatory slang pencil-pusher "office worker" is from 1881; pencil neck "weak person" first recorded 1973.



1530s, "to mark or sketch with a pencil-brush," from pencil (n.). In reference to lead pencils from 1760s. Related: Penciled; penciling. To pencil (something) in "arrange tentatively" is attested from 1942.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for penciling



To work out details; study: Let me pencil this idea for a while (1990s+)

Related Terms

have lead in one's pencil

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with penciling
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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