- a place for imprisonment, reformatory discipline, or punishment, especially a prison maintained in the U.S. by a state or the federal government for serious offenders.
- Roman Catholic Church. a tribunal in the Curia Romana, presided over by a cardinal (grand penitentiary), having jurisdiction over certain matters, as penance, confession, dispensation, absolution, and impediments, and dealing with questions of conscience reserved for the Holy See.
- (of an offense) punishable by imprisonment in a penitentiary.
- of, relating to, or intended for imprisonment, reformatory discipline, or punishment.
Origin of penitentiary
Examples from the Web for penitentiary
The method would come to be known as “The Pennsylvania System” and the institution “a penitentiary.”
Philadelphia coined the term ‘penitentiary’—and set the tone for prison reform.
Walking past a large data center building, painted yellow like a penitentiary, I asked what went on inside.Google Thinks You’re Stupid—and Works to Keep You in the Dark
May 29, 2012
“I rediscovered my own humanity in the penitentiary,” he admits.Ex-Prisoners Say Life Term Is Cruel for Teens, As Case Hits High Court
March 19, 2012
The Mexican Mafia run their empire from the penitentiary to the streets of LA.The Mexican Mafia Is the Daddy of All Street Gangs
December 11, 2014
Were they all mad—was he not standing with one foot in the penitentiary?Thoroughbreds
W. A. Fraser
He is to be beaten, understand, if we have to send him to the penitentiary on an old issue to do it.The Gentleman From Indiana
But the ‘strays’ are ‘crooks,’ and their homes the penitentiary.
By his own admission he was against the law, a “crook,” and—the penitentiary was looming.
“If all we hear is true, his end will be the penitentiary,” she declared with decision.
- (in the US and Canada) a state or federal prison: in Canada, esp a federal prison for offenders convicted of serious crimesSometimes shortened to: pen
- RC Church
- a cleric appointed to supervise the administration of the sacrament of penance in a particular area
- a priest who has special faculties to absolve particularly grave sins
- a cardinal who presides over a tribunal that decides all matters affecting the sacrament of penance
- this tribunal itself
- another word for penitential (def. 1)
- US and Canadian (of an offence) punishable by imprisonment in a penitentiary
Word Origin and History for penitentiary
early 15c., "place of punishment for offenses against the church," from Medieval Latin penitentiaria, from fem. of penitentiarius (adj.) "of penance," from Latin paenitentia "penitence" (see penitence). Meaning "house of correction" (originally an asylum for prostitutes) is from 1806, short for penitentiary house (1776). Slang shortening pen is attested from 1884.