[ sten-suhl ]
See synonyms for stencil on
  1. a device for applying a pattern, design, words, etc., to a surface, consisting of a thin sheet of cardboard, metal, or other material from which figures or letters have been cut out, a coloring substance, ink, etc., being rubbed, brushed, or pressed over the sheet, passing through the perforations and onto the surface.

  2. the letters, designs, etc., produced on a surface by this method.

verb (used with object),sten·ciled, sten·cil·ing or (especially British) sten·cilled, sten·cil·ling.
  1. to mark or paint (a surface) by means of a stencil.

  2. to produce (letters, figures, designs, etc.) by means of a stencil.

Origin of stencil

1375–1425; earlier stanesile,late Middle English stansele to ornament with diverse colors or spangles <Middle French estanceler, derivative of estencele a spark, ornamental spangle <Vulgar Latin *stincilla, metathetic variant of Latin scintillascintilla

Other words from stencil

  • sten·cil·er; especially British, sten·cil·ler, noun

Words Nearby stencil Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use stencil in a sentence

  • As the microbes moved toward the light to carry out photosynthesis, they projected the image of the stencil.

    The Deadliest Art Ever | Jaimie Etkin | May 31, 2010 | THE DAILY BEAST
  • A Banksyesque stencil of Einstein carries a sign bearing the most unBanksyesque: message LOVE IS THE ANSWER.

    The Art of 'Mr. Brainwash' | Anthony Haden-Guest | February 18, 2010 | THE DAILY BEAST
  • Long time the girl sat absorbed, her golden colour, her brown-gold hair in harmony with the universal stencil of gold.

  • Next lay the stencil in a small shallow dish and pour a small quantity of fresh nitric acid over it.

  • The stencil may be given a final cleaning in a dish of benzine or gasoline, which will remove any remaining wax.

  • A stencil was cut and copied, and for many days Bouginier's nose appeared on all the walls in Paris.

    Vie de Bohme | Orlo Williams
  • Each slight projection makes a hole in the paper, and then the stencil idea begins again.

    Steam Steel and Electricity | James W. Steele

British Dictionary definitions for stencil


/ (ˈstɛnsəl) /

  1. a device for applying a design, characters, etc, to a surface, consisting of a thin sheet of plastic, metal, cardboard, etc in which the design or characters have been cut so that ink or paint can be applied through the incisions onto the surface

  2. a decoration, design, or characters produced in this way

verb-cils, -cilling or -cilled or US -cils, -ciling or -ciled (tr)
  1. to mark (a surface) with a stencil

  2. to produce (characters or a design) with a stencil

Origin of stencil

C14 stanselen to decorate with bright colours, from Old French estenceler, from estencele a spark, from Latin scintilla

Derived forms of stencil

  • stenciller, noun

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