[ri-fawr-muh-tawr-ee, -tohr-ee]


serving or designed to reform: reformatory lectures; reformatory punishments.

noun, plural re·form·a·to·ries.

Also called reform school. a penal institution for reforming young offenders, especially minors.

Origin of reformatory

1580–90; < Latin refōrmāt(us) (see reformation) + -ory1, -ory2
Related formspre·re·form·a·to·ry, adjectivepseu·do·re·form·a·to·ry, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for reformatory

penitentiary, cooler, jail, prison

Examples from the Web for reformatory

Contemporary Examples of reformatory

Historical Examples of reformatory

  • He spent seven years in a reformatory and the kids there were never young.

    The Man from Time

    Frank Belknap Long

  • He left here when he was a boy,—to avoid being sent to the reformatory.

    The Plum Tree

    David Graham Phillips

  • It was once used as a school, and later on as a reformatory.

    Hammersmith, Fulham and Putney

    Geraldine Edith Mitton

  • He has been sent to a reformatory for a good number of years.

    The Opal Serpent

    Fergus Hume

  • I wonder if they are out of the reformatory yet for setting fire to the barn?

British Dictionary definitions for reformatory


noun plural -ries

Also called: reform school (formerly) a place of instruction where young offenders were sent for corrective trainingCompare approved school


having the purpose or function of reforming
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 reformatory

1704, from past participle stem of Latin reformare "to transform, change" (see reform (v.)). As a noun, "house of correction for juveniles," from 1758.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper