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jail

[jeyl]
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noun
  1. a prison, especially one for the detention of persons awaiting trial or convicted of minor offenses.
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verb (used with object)
  1. to take into or hold in lawful custody; imprison.
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Also British, gaol.

Origin of jail

1225–75; Middle English gaiole, jaiole, jaile < Old North French gaiole, Old French jaiole cage < Vulgar Latin *gaviola, variant of *caveola, diminutive of Latin cavea cage; see -ole1
Related formsjail·a·ble, adjectivejail·less, adjectivejail·like, adjectivenon·jail·a·ble, adjectivere·jail, verb (used with object)un·jailed, adjective
Can be confusedjail prison
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words

penitentiarylockupcellprisonconfinesentenceimprisondetainholddungeonpoundsolitarycoolerstirinsidejointpenstockadereformatoryclink

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British Dictionary definitions for jail

jail

gaol

noun
  1. a place for the confinement of persons convicted and sentenced to imprisonment or of persons awaiting trial to whom bail is not granted
  2. get out of jail or get out of jail free informal to get out of a difficult situation
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verb
  1. (tr) to confine in prison
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Derived Formsjailless or gaolless, adjectivejail-like or gaol-like, adjective

Word Origin

C13: from Old French jaiole cage, from Vulgar Latin caveola (unattested), from Latin cavea enclosure; see cage : the two spellings derive from the forms of the word that developed in two different areas of France, and the spelling gaol represents a pronunciation in use until the 17th century
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 jail

n.

late 13c., gayhol, from Old North French gaiole and Old French jaole, both meaning "a cage, prison," from Medieval Latin gabiola, from Late Latin caveola, diminutive of Latin cavea "cage, enclosure, stall, coop" (see cave (n.)). Both forms carried into Middle English; now pronounced "jail" however it is spelled. Persistence of Norman-derived gaol (preferred in Britain) is "chiefly due to statutory and official tradition" [OED].

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v.

"to put in jail," c.1600, from jail (n.). Related: Jailed; jailing.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper