[ 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.

Nearby words

  1. pen-,
  2. pen-based,
  3. pen-friend,
  4. pen-pal,
  5. pen.,
  6. penal code,
  7. penal servitude,
  8. penalise,
  9. penality,
  10. penalize

Origin of penal

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

Related forms
Can be confusedpenal penological punitivepenal penile Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for penal

British Dictionary definitions for 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 Formspenally, 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

Word Origin and History for penal



"pertaining to punishment," mid-15c., from Old French peinal (12c., Modern French pénal) and directly from Medieval Latin penalis, from Latin poenalis "pertaining to punishment," from poena "punishment," from Greek poine "blood-money, fine, penalty, punishment," from PIE *kwoina, from root *kwei- "to pay, atone, compensate" (cf. Greek time "price, worth, honor, esteem, respect," tinein "to pay a price, punish, take vengeance;" Sanskrit cinoti "observes, notes;" Avestan kaena "punishment, vengeance;" Old Church Slavonic cena "honor, price;" Lithuanian kaina "value, price").

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper