[ 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 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use stencil in a sentence

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