[ pent-uhp ]
/ ˈpɛntˈʌp /
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not vented or expressed; held inside; restrained; curbed: pent-up emotions;pent-up rage.


bottled-up, checked, confined, repressed, suppressed.
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Origin of pent-up

First recorded in 1705–15; adjective use of verb phrase pent up
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does pent-up mean?

Pent-up is used to describe something that is repressed or not expressed, such as feelings, as in Tina had a lot of pent-up anger over her parents’ divorce that she did not know how to express.

Pent-up also describes something that has not been vented, like a gas, which causes pressure to build, as in Tremors release pent-up energy beneath the earth’s crust.

Example: All this pent-up anger is bad for your mental health.

Where does pent-up come from?

The first records of the term pent-up come from the early 1700s. It combines the adjective pent, meaning “contained or confined,” and the term up.

Usually, pent-up refers to emotional pressure or mental confinement. It comes from literal uses, such as describing pent-up gasses, liquids, or substances that might burst from their confinement. For example, if too much water is let into a dam’s well, the pent-up water can cause damage unless it is let out the other side.

Pent-up usually refers to negative emotions such as sadness or rage because people often avoid dealing with those feelings, so they stay with us. Connected to this figurative use of pent-up is the term vent. Pressure can literally be released using a vent, while figuratively, emotions can be released by venting, that is, sharing them with other people or otherwise expressing them.

Did you know … ?

What are some synonyms for pent-up?

What are some words that share a root or word element with pent-up

What are some words that often get used in discussing pent-up?

How is pent-up used in real life?  

Pent-up is usually associated with negative emotions or negative results from pressure buildup.



Try using pent-up!

Which of the following is NOT a synonym for pent-up?

A. repressed
B. released
C. stifled
D. suppressed

How to use pent-up in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for pent-up


adjective (pent up when postpositive)
not released; repressedpent-up emotions
kept unwillinglyI've been pent up in this office for over a year
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