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[sten-suh l] /ˈstɛn səl/
a device for applying a pattern, design, words, etc., to a surface, consisting of a thin sheet of cardboard, metal, or other material from which figures or letters have been cut out, a coloring substance, ink, etc., being rubbed, brushed, or pressed over the sheet, passing through the perforations and onto the surface.
the letters, designs, etc., produced on a surface by this method.
verb (used with object), stenciled, stenciling or (especially British) stencilled, stencilling.
to mark or paint (a surface) by means of a stencil.
to produce (letters, figures, designs, etc.) by means of a stencil.
Origin of stencil
late Middle English
1375-1425; earlier stanesile, late Middle English stansele to ornament with diverse colors or spangles < Middle French estanceler, derivative of estencele a spark, ornamental spangle < Vulgar Latin *stincilla, metathetic variant of Latin scintilla scintilla
Related forms
stenciler; especially British, stenciller, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for stencilled
Historical Examples
  • They knew that athwart the Khalifa's writ was stencilled "Made in Germany."

    The New World of Islam Lothrop Stoddard
  • It was oval in shape, and had a stencilled rim in a conventional design.

    Polly's Business Venture

    Lillian Elizabeth Roy
  • A design is then stencilled on the four strips in lilac and green.

  • The place she came from is stencilled on the boiler, and the foreman examines her.

    From Sea to Sea Rudyard Kipling
  • When it was dear, many walls were stencilled or daubed over with a rude pattern.

    Knowledge is Power: Charles Knight
  • He turned to the box again and read the name of "Rosenthal" stencilled on the bottom.

    Felix O'Day F. Hopkinson Smith
  • On the case without the panel is stencilled work, attempting to follow out the style of the imported panel.

    Chats on Old Clocks Arthur Hayden
  • Repetition had stencilled his name and his photograph upon the public cerebrum.

    When Winter Comes to Main Street

    Grant Martin Overton
  • The curtains were not down; but now, attached to the Flobert Rifle, was a stencilled card.

    The Adventures of Bobby Orde Stewart Edward White
  • And we have orders for more of Maries stencilled runners, and Adelaides jelly.

    Winona of the Camp Fire Margaret Widdemer
British Dictionary definitions for stencilled


a device for applying a design, characters, etc, to a surface, consisting of a thin sheet of plastic, metal, cardboard, etc in which the design or characters have been cut so that ink or paint can be applied through the incisions onto the surface
a decoration, design, or characters produced in this way
verb (transitive) -cils, -cilling, -cilled (US) -cils, -ciling, -ciled
to mark (a surface) with a stencil
to produce (characters or a design) with a stencil
Derived Forms
stenciller, noun
Word Origin
C14 stanselen to decorate with bright colours, from Old French estenceler, from estencele a spark, from Latin scintilla
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 stencilled



1707, not recorded again until 1848, probably from Middle English stencellen "decorate with bright colors," from Middle French estenceler "cover with sparkles or stars, powder with color," from estencele "spark, spangle," from Vulgar Latin *stincilla, metathesis of Latin scintilla "spark."



"to produce a design with a stencil," 1861, from stencil (n.). Related: Stenciled; stenciling.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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