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[verb in-kahr-suh-reyt; adjective in-kahr-ser-it, -suh-reyt]
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verb (used with object), in·car·cer·at·ed, in·car·cer·at·ing.
  1. to imprison; confine.
  2. to enclose; constrict closely.
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  1. imprisoned.
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Origin of incarcerate

1520–30; < Medieval Latin incarcerātus past participle of incarcerāre to imprison, equivalent to in- in-2 + carcer prison + -ātus -ate1
Related formsin·car·cer·a·tion, nounin·car·cer·a·tive, adjectivein·car·cer·a·tor, nounun·in·car·cer·at·ed, adjective

Synonyms for incarcerate

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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for incarcerate

detain, jail, confine, imprison, immure, restrict, constrain, intern, settle, restrain, slough, commit, railroad, hold, cage, book, impound, bastille

Examples from the Web for incarcerate

Historical Examples of incarcerate

  • If she attempts to incarcerate you, she might be successful.

    The "Genius"

    Theodore Dreiser

  • But we could not incarcerate George Prince for being an eavesdropper.

  • "Before you drive me away I will incarcerate you," replied this worthy man.

  • A magistrate gave orders to the constables to arrest and incarcerate the rest of the Spanish Negroes.

  • "If ever I do reach such a state, I hope the family will incarcerate me," rejoined Nan.

    The Four Corners in Japan

    Amy Ella Blanchard

British Dictionary definitions for incarcerate


  1. (tr) to confine or imprison
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Derived Formsincarceration, nounincarcerator, noun

Word Origin for incarcerate

C16: from Medieval Latin incarcerāre, from Latin in- ² + carcer prison
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

Word Origin and History for incarcerate


1550s, a back-formation from incarceration, or else from Medieval Latin incarceratus, past participle of incarcerare "to imprison" (see incarceration). Related: Incarcerated; incarcerating.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper