a prison, especially one for the detention of persons awaiting trial or convicted of minor offenses.

verb (used with object)

to take into or hold in lawful custody; imprison.

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. 2019

Examples from the Web for jailing

Contemporary Examples of jailing

  • Turkey, a NATO member and European Union aspirant, has a long history of jailing journalists and dissenters.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Turkey Arrests Journalists in Crackdown

    Jesse Rosenfeld

    December 14, 2014

  • Even worse is the way the government has responded—by jailing its critics and making them heroes.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Hunger Strike Inflames India

    Salil Tripathi

    August 18, 2011

  • PEN members marched around the Czech embassy to protest the jailing of Vaclav Havel.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Writers Rally for Liu Xiaobo

    PEN American Center

    January 4, 2010

Historical Examples of jailing

British Dictionary definitions for jailing




a place for the confinement of persons convicted and sentenced to imprisonment or of persons awaiting trial to whom bail is not granted
get out of jail or get out of jail free informal to get out of a difficult situation


(tr) to confine in prison
Derived Formsjailless or gaolless, adjectivejail-like or gaol-like, adjective

Word Origin for jail

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 jailing



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].



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

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper