[ peen-l ]
/ ˈpin l /


of, relating to, or involving punishment, as for crimes or offenses.
prescribing punishment: penal laws.
constituting punishment: He survived the years of penal hardship.
used as a place of confinement and punishment: a penal colony.
subject to or incurring punishment: a penal offense.
payable or forfeitable as a penalty: a penal sum.

Origin of penal

1400–50; late Middle English < Latin poenālis, equivalent to poen(a) penalty (< Greek poinḗ fine) + -ālis -al1

Related forms

Can be confused

penal penological punitivepenal penile Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for non-penal


/ (ˈpiːnəl) /


of, relating to, constituting, or prescribing punishment
payable as a penaltya penal sum
used or designated as a place of punishmenta penal institution

Derived Forms

penally, adverb

Word Origin for penal

C15: from Late Latin poenālis concerning punishment, from poena penalty
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