noun, plural pen·i·ten·tia·ries.
LEARN THE SPANISH WORDS FOR THESE COMMON ANIMALS!
Words nearby penitentiary
What does penitentiary mean?
A penitentiary is a prison, especially a state or federal prison in the United States or Canada.
Penitentiaries typically house criminals who have committed major crimes. The word is often used in formal contexts. In less formal and slang usage, it is often shortened to pen or the pen, such as in the phrase state pen (a penitentiary run by a state government, as opposed to the federal government). It is sometimes used as an adjective describing related things.
Less commonly, the word is used as the name of a special type of Roman Catholic tribunal.
Example: If convicted, your client is facing a life sentence in a federal penitentiary.
Where does penitentiary come from?
The first records of penitentiary come from around the 1400s. It comes from the Medieval Latin pēnitēntiārius, from Latin paenitēns, meaning “penitent.” Penitent can mean “expressing sorrow or remorse for an offense” or “a person who expresses such remorse.” Penitentiary, penitent, penance, and repent are all related to the Latin verb paenitēre, meaning “to regret” or “to be sorry.”
Many people use the words prison and jail interchangeably, but in most cases a prison houses long-term inmates convicted of major crimes, especially violent crimes such as murder and armed robbery. A jail, on the other hand, typically holds people who have been convicted of minor offenses or who are awaiting trial. Penitentiary almost always refers to prison. It is most often used in the official names of state and federal prisons in the U.S. and Canada.
A more specific and less common use of penitentiary refers to a Roman Catholic tribunal presided over by a cardinal (a high-ranking bishop). Such a body has authority over certain matters like penance and confession.
Did you know ... ?
What are some other forms related to penitentiary?
What are some synonyms for penitentiary?
What are some words that share a root or word element with penitentiary?
What are some words that often get used in discussing penitentiary?
How is penitentiary used in real life?
Penitentiary is typically used in a formal way, especially as the name of state and federal prisons in the U.S. and Canada. In everyday speech, the word prison is much more commonly used.
I rather be broke on the streets than in a penitentiary cell !
— ⚡SHEDRICK DOTSON⚡ (@Iam_SuperB_) March 16, 2020
Watching this documentary on how these six dudes broke out of the penitentiary in Pittsburgh it's crazy how they did it
— Blood Money (@_geezy51) January 28, 2015
Y’all really doing push-ups in your Instagram story like we’re serving a dime in the state penitentiary
— jose? (@dirtandroses) March 21, 2020
Try using penitentiary!
Are the prisoners in a penitentiary more likely to be serving a short-term sentence or a long-term sentence?
Example sentences from the Web for penitentiary
The method would come to be known as “The Pennsylvania System” and the institution “a penitentiary.”
Philadelphia coined the term ‘penitentiary’—and set the tone for prison reform.
Walking past a large data center building, painted yellow like a penitentiary, I asked what went on inside.Google Thinks You’re Stupid—and Works to Keep You in the Dark|Andrew Blum|May 29, 2012|DAILY BEAST
“I rediscovered my own humanity in the penitentiary,” he admits.Ex-Prisoners Say Life Term Is Cruel for Teens, As Case Hits High Court|Sandra McElwaine|March 19, 2012|DAILY BEAST
The Mexican Mafia run their empire from the penitentiary to the streets of LA.The Mexican Mafia Is the Daddy of All Street Gangs|Seth Ferranti|December 11, 2014|DAILY BEAST
Two weeks later an epidemic of typhoid broke out in the school, and three weeks later in the penitentiary.Preventable Diseases|Woods Hutchinson
Five days had passed since the entrance of Caballuco into the Penitentiary's house.Dona Perfecta|B. Perez Galdos
He feels something of the air of the penitentiary in the very refinements of his luxurious hostelrie.
He was caught, convicted, and was being taken to the penitentiary, but escaped.Bill Bruce on Forest Patrol|Henry Harley Arnold
But now they turn around and want to put Mr. Vaile and Mr. Miner into the penitentiary on the same testimony.The Works of Robert G. Ingersoll, Vol. 10 (of 12)|Robert G. Ingersoll
British Dictionary definitions for penitentiary
noun plural -ries
- a cleric appointed to supervise the administration of the sacrament of penance in a particular area
- a priest who has special faculties to absolve particularly grave sins
- a cardinal who presides over a tribunal that decides all matters affecting the sacrament of penance
- this tribunal itself