See more synonyms for pent on
  1. shut in; confined.

Origin of pent

past participle of late Middle English pend (now obsolete), variant of pen2 (v.); cf. spend



Origin of pent

by shortening


  1. any of various instruments for writing or drawing with ink or a similar substance.
  2. a detachable metal penpoint, filled by dipping or with a quill; nib.
  3. such a penpoint with its penholder.
  4. fountain pen.
  5. ball-point pen.
  6. the pen as the instrument of writing or authorship: The pen is mightier than the sword.
  7. a person's style or quality of writing: He writes with a witty, incisive pen.
  8. a writer: I leave this story to abler pens.
  9. the profession of writing: a master of the pen.
  10. Computers. stylus(def 3).
  11. Ornithology.
    1. a quill.
    2. a pinfeather.
  12. something resembling or suggesting a feather or quill.
  13. Zoology. an internal, corneous or chitinous, feather-shaped structure in certain cephalopods, as the squid.
verb (used with object), penned, pen·ning.
  1. to write with or as with a pen; put down in writing: to pen an essay.
  2. to draw with or as with a pen: to pen a sketch.

Origin of pen

1250–1300; Middle English penne < Old French penne pen, feather < Late Latin penna, Latin: feather
Related formspen·like, adjectivepen·ner, noun


  1. a small enclosure for domestic animals.
  2. animals so enclosed: We have a pen of twenty sheep.
  3. an enclosure used for confinement or safekeeping: We have built several pens to hold our harvest of corn.
  4. playpen.
  5. bull pen.
  6. a dock having a protective concrete structure overhead, used to service and repair submarines.
verb (used with object), penned or pent, pen·ning.
  1. to confine in or as in a pen.

Origin of pen

before 1000; (noun) Middle English penne, Old English penn (in compounds); perhaps akin to pin; (v.) Middle English pennen, derivative of the noun


  1. a combining form occurring in loanwords from Greek, meaning “five” (Pentateuch); on this model, used in the formation of compound words (pentavalent).
Also especially before a vowel, pent-.

Origin of penta-

< Greek pent-, penta-, comb. forms representing pénte five

Pent. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for pent

Contemporary Examples of pent

  • Perhaps so much so that he aroused whatever cruelty and anger and lunacy that Hernandez may have had pent up.

  • Enough demand remains “pent up,” Mulally said, that the end of Cash for Clunkers will not kill sales in the fourth quarter.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Ford's Stealthy Success

    Allan Dodds Frank

    September 23, 2009

Historical Examples of pent

  • In the burst of merriment, his pent feelings found their vent.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • What pent malice often is masked by smiling social courtesies!

    Oswald Langdon

    Carson Jay Lee

  • His friend's reply came with the pent promptitude of a gun going off.

  • It was pent, it was dying of confinement, it was breathing with only a tithe of its tissue.

    Child and Country

    Will Levington Comfort

  • We were pent up in the castle by the Danes till our provisions failed.

British Dictionary definitions for pent


  1. a past tense and past participle of pen 2


n acronym for
  1. International Association of Poets, Playwrights, Editors, Essayists, and Novelists


combining form
  1. fivepentagon; pentameter; pentaprism

Word Origin for penta-

from Greek pente five


  1. an implement for writing or drawing using ink, formerly consisting of a sharpened and split quill, and now of a metal nib attached to a holderSee also ballpoint, fountain pen
  2. the writing end of such an implement; nib
  3. style of writing
  4. the pen
    1. writing as an occupation
    2. the written wordthe pen is mightier than the sword
  5. the long horny internal shell of a squid
verb pens, penning or penned
  1. (tr) to write or compose

Word Origin for pen

Old English pinne, from Late Latin penna (quill) pen, from Latin: feather


  1. an enclosure in which domestic animals are keptsheep pen
  2. any place of confinement
  3. a dock for servicing submarines, esp one having a bombproof roof
verb pens, penning, penned or pent
  1. (tr) to enclose or keep in a pen

Word Origin for pen

Old English penn, perhaps related to pin


  1. US and Canadian informal short for penitentiary (def. 1)


  1. a female swan

Word Origin for pen

C16: of unknown origin
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 pent

"kept in, confined," 1540s, variant of penned, past participle of pen (v.2). Pent-up (also pent up) is from 1580s.



"writing implement," late 13c., from Old French pene "quill pen; feather" (12c.) and directly from Latin penna "a feather, plume," in plural "a wing," in Late Latin, "a pen for writing," from Old Latin petna, pesna, from PIE *pet-na-, suffixed form of root *pet- "to rush; to fly" (see petition (n.)).

Latin penna and pinna "a feather, plume;" in plural "a wing;" also "a pinnacle; battlement" (see pin (n.)) are treated as identical in Watkins, etc., but regarded as separate (but confused) Latin words by Tucker and others, who derive pinna from PIE *spei- "sharp point" (cf. spike (n.1)) and see the "feather/wing" sense as secondary.

In later French, this word means only "long feather of a bird," while the equivalent of English plume is used for "writing implement," the senses of the two words thus are reversed from the situation in English. Pen-and-ink (adj.) is attested from 1670s. Pen name is recorded from mid-19c.



"enclosure for animals," Old English penn, penne, "enclosure, pen, fold," of uncertain origin, perhaps related to Old English pinn "pin, peg" (see pin (n.)) on notion of a bolted gate or else "structure made of pointed stakes."


word-forming element meaning "five, containing five," from Greek penta- (before a vowel pent-), comb. form of pente "five," related to Aeolian pempte (see five), with -a- by analogy of hepta-, ennea-, deka-.



late 15c., from pen (n.). Related: Penned; penning.



"to enclose in a pen," c.1200, from Old English *pennian, from the source of pen (n.2). Related: Penned; penning.



slang, "prison," 1884, shortening of penitentiary; earlier use (1845) probably is a figurative extension of pen (n.2).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

pent in Medicine


  1. Five:pentameter.
  2. Containing five atoms, molecules, or groups:pentose.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Idioms and Phrases with pent


see slip of the lip (pen).

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