work or markings done with or as if with a pencil or brush, especially fine or delicate work done with a pencil or brush on a painting or drawing.
a drawing or sketch made with a pencil.

Origin of penciling

First recorded in 1700–10; pencil + -ing1


[pen-suh l]


a slender tube of wood, metal, plastic, etc., containing a core or strip of graphite, a solid coloring material, or the like, used for writing or drawing.
a stick of cosmetic coloring material for use on the eyebrows, eyelids, etc.
anything shaped or used like a pencil, as a stick of medicated material: a styptic pencil.
a narrow set of lines, light rays, or the like, diverging from or converging to a point: a pencil of sunlight.
a slender, pointed piece of a substance used for marking.
style or skill in drawing or delineation: He favored the late products of the artist's pencil.
Mathematics. the collection of lines, planes, or surfaces passing through a given point or set of points and satisfying a given equation or condition.
Archaic. an artist's paintbrush, especially for fine work.

verb (used with object), pen·ciled, pen·cil·ing or (especially British) pen·cilled, pen·cil·ling.

to write, draw, mark, or color with, or as if with, a pencil.
to use a pencil on.

Verb Phrases

pencil in, to schedule or list tentatively, as or as if by writing down in pencil rather than in ink: I'll pencil you in for ten o'clock.

Origin of pencil

1350–1400; Middle English pencel < Middle French pincelLatin pēnicillus painter's brush or pencil, diminutive of pēniculus little tail. See penis, -cule1
Related formspen·cil·er; especially British, pen·cil·ler, nounpen·cil·like, adjectiveun·pen·ciled, adjectiveun·pen·cilled, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for penciling

Historical Examples of penciling

  • The girl lifted the brows that were dark enough to require no penciling.

  • The penciling of this note gave Rodney time to recover himself.

    Night and Day

    Virginia Woolf

  • The Secretary nodded, penciling Frawley's correction on the paper.

  • Penciling a brief note he gave it to a soldier of his company and bade him take it to the guard tents.

  • In the females solid yellow bills, fawn colored breasts and absence of penciling must be avoided.

    Ducks and Geese

    Harry M. Lamon

British Dictionary definitions for penciling



  1. a thin cylindrical instrument used for writing, drawing, etc, consisting of a rod of graphite or other marking substance, usually either encased in wood and sharpened or held in a mechanical metal device
  2. (as modifier)a pencil drawing
something similar in shape or functiona styptic pencil; an eyebrow pencil
a narrow set of lines or rays, such as light rays, diverging from or converging to a point
archaic an artist's fine paintbrush
rare an artist's individual style or technique in drawing

verb -cils, -cilling or -cilled or US -cils, -ciling or -ciled (tr)

to draw, colour, or write with a pencil
to mark with a pencil
pencil in to note, arrange, include, etc provisionally or tentatively
Derived Formspenciller or US penciler, noun

Word Origin for pencil

C14: from Old French pincel, from Latin pēnicillus painter's brush, from pēniculus a little tail, from pēnis tail
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 penciling



early 14c., "an artist's fine brush of camel hair," from Old French pincel "artist's paintbrush" (13c., Modern French pinceau), from Latin penicillus "painter's brush, hair-pencil," literally "little tail," diminutive of peniculus "brush," itself a diminutive of penis "tail" (see penis). Small brushes formerly were used for writing before modern lead or chalk pencils; meaning "graphite writing implement" apparently evolved late 16c. Derogatory slang pencil-pusher "office worker" is from 1881; pencil neck "weak person" first recorded 1973.



1530s, "to mark or sketch with a pencil-brush," from pencil (n.). In reference to lead pencils from 1760s. Related: Penciled; penciling. To pencil (something) in "arrange tentatively" is attested from 1942.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with penciling


see put lead in one's pencil.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.