[ pen-suhl ]
See synonyms for pencil on
  1. 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.

  2. a stick of cosmetic coloring material for use on the eyebrows, eyelids, etc.

  1. anything shaped or used like a pencil, as a stick of medicated material: a styptic pencil.

  2. a narrow set of lines, light rays, or the like, diverging from or converging to a point: a pencil of sunlight.

  3. a slender, pointed piece of a substance used for marking.

  4. style or skill in drawing or delineation: He favored the late products of the artist's pencil.

  5. Mathematics. the collection of lines, planes, or surfaces passing through a given point or set of points and satisfying a given equation or condition.

  6. 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.
  1. to write, draw, mark, or color with, or as if with, a pencil.

  2. to use a pencil on.

Verb Phrases
  1. 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 pincel ≪ Latin pēnicillus painter's brush or pencil, diminutive of pēniculus little tail. See penis, -cule1

Other words from pencil

  • pen·cil·er; especially British, pen·cil·ler, noun
  • pen·cil·like, adjective
  • un·pen·ciled, adjective
  • un·pen·cilled, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use pencil in a sentence

  • So after some weeks of speculation, he bought himself a tablet, some pencils and took up the art of writing.

    The Homesteader | Oscar Micheaux
  • Pencils for mechanical drawing should be sharpened with a chisel point, and those for freehand work with a round point.

  • The legs are made of two lengths of wire, of sufficient stiffness, and are shaped to form holders for lead pencils and penholders.

  • Grind the base of the tang into a knife blade for sharpening pencils, shaving chalk, opening envelopes, etc.

  • All sorts and conditions of men armed with pads, pencils, motion-picture cameras, still cameras.

    My Wonderful Visit | Charlie Chaplin

British Dictionary definitions for pencil


/ (ˈpɛnsəl) /

    • 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

    • (as modifier): a pencil drawing

  1. something similar in shape or function: a styptic pencil; an eyebrow pencil

  1. a narrow set of lines or rays, such as light rays, diverging from or converging to a point

  2. archaic an artist's fine paintbrush

  3. rare an artist's individual style or technique in drawing

verb-cils, -cilling or -cilled or US -cils, -ciling or -ciled (tr)
  1. to draw, colour, or write with a pencil

  2. to mark with a pencil

  1. pencil in to note, arrange, include, etc provisionally or tentatively

Origin of pencil

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

Derived forms of pencil

  • penciller or US penciler, noun

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

Other Idioms and Phrases with pencil


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.