[ peen-l ]
See synonyms for penal on
  1. of, relating to, or involving punishment, as for crimes or offenses.

  2. prescribing punishment: penal laws.

  1. constituting punishment: He survived the years of penal hardship.

  2. used as a place of confinement and punishment: a penal colony.

  3. subject to or incurring punishment: a penal offense.

  4. 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

Other words from penal

  • pe·nal·i·ty [pi-nal-i-tee], /pɪˈnæl ɪ ti/, noun
  • pe·nal·ly, adverb
  • non·pe·nal, adjective
  • un·pe·nal, adjective
  • un·pe·nal·ly, adverb

Words that may be confused with penal

Words Nearby penal Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use penal in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for penal


/ (ˈpiːnəl) /

  1. of, relating to, constituting, or prescribing punishment

  2. payable as a penalty: a penal sum

  1. used or designated as a place of punishment: a penal institution

Origin of penal

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

Derived forms of penal

  • penally, adverb

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