[ priz-uh n ]
/ ˈprɪz ən /


a building for the confinement of persons held while awaiting trial, persons sentenced after conviction, etc.
any place of confinement or involuntary restraint.

Nearby words

  1. prismatic compass,
  2. prismatic layer,
  3. prismatic telescope,
  4. prismatoid,
  5. prismoid,
  6. prison camp,
  7. prison fever,
  8. prison psychosis,
  9. prison rustic work,
  10. prisoner

Origin of prison

before 1150; Middle English prison, earlier prisun < Old French, variant of preson imprisonment, a prison < Latin pre(hē)nsiōn- (stem of prehēnsiō) a seizure, arrest, equivalent to prehēns(us) (past participle of prehendere to seize) + -iōn- -ion; doublet of prehension

Related formspris·on·like, adjectivepost·pris·on, adjective

Can be confusedjail prison Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for prison

British Dictionary definitions for prison


/ (ˈprɪzən) /


a public building used to house convicted criminals and accused persons remanded in custody and awaiting trialSee also jail, penitentiary, reformatory
any place of confinement or seeming confinement

Word Origin for prison

C12: from Old French prisun, from Latin prēnsiō a capturing, from prehendere to lay hold of

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 prison
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper