What does penitentiary mean?

Definitions for penitentiary
ˌpɛn ɪˈtɛn ʃə ripen·i·ten·tia·ry

This dictionary definitions page includes all the possible meanings, example usage and translations of the word penitentiary.

Princeton's WordNet

  1. penitentiary, penadjective

    a correctional institution for those convicted of major crimes

  2. penitentiaryadjective

    used for punishment or reform of criminals or wrongdoers

    "penitentiary institutions"

  3. penitential, penitentiaryadjective

    showing or constituting penance

    "penitential tears"; "wrote a penitential letter apologizing for her hasty words"


  1. penitentiarynoun

    A state or federal prison for convicted felons.

  2. penitentiarynoun

    (Roman Catholic Church) A priest who administers the sacrament of penance.

  3. penitentiaryadjective

    of or relating to penance; penitential

  4. penitentiaryadjective

    of or relating to the punishment of criminals

  5. Etymology: From penitentiaria, term used by the Quakers in Pennsylvania during the 1790s, describing a place for penitents to dwell upon their sins.

Samuel Johnson's Dictionary

  1. Penitentiarynoun

    Etymology: penitencier, Fr. pœnitentiarius, low Latin.

    Upon the loss of Urbin, the duke’s undoubted right, no penitentiary, though he had enjoined him never so straight pennance to expiate his first offence, would have counselled him to have given over pursuit of his right, which he prosperously re-obtained. Francis Bacon.

    The great penitentiary with his counsellors prescribes the measure of pennance. John Ayliffe, Parergon.

    A prison restrained John Northampton’s liberty, who, for abusing the same in his unruly mayoralty of London, was condemned hither as a perpetual penitentiary. Carew.

    To maintain a painful fight against the law of sin, is the work of the penitentiary. Henry Hammond.


  1. penitentiary

    A prison, also known as a jail, gaol (dated, British English, Australian, South African and historically in Canada), penitentiary (American English and Canadian English), detention center (or detention centre outside the US), correction center, correctional facility, lock-up, hoosegow or remand center, is a facility in which inmates (or prisoners) are confined against their will and usually denied a variety of freedoms under the authority of the state as punishment for various crimes. Prisons are most commonly used within a criminal justice system: people charged with crimes may be imprisoned until their trial; those pleading or being found guilty of crimes at trial may be sentenced to a specified period of imprisonment. In simplest terms, a prison can also be described as a building in which people are legally held as a punishment for a crime they have committed. Prisons can also be used as a tool of political repression by authoritarian regimes. Their perceived opponents may be imprisoned for political crimes, often without trial or other legal due process; this use is illegal under most forms of international law governing fair administration of justice. In times of war, prisoners of war or detainees may be detained in military prisons or prisoner of war camps, and large groups of civilians might be imprisoned in internment camps. In American English, the terms prison and jail have separate definitions, though this is not always strictly adhered to in casual speech. A prison or penitentiary holds people for longer periods of time, such as many years, and is operated by a state or federal government. A jail holds people for shorter periods of time (e.g. for shorter sentences or pre-trial detention) and is usually operated by a local government, typically the county sheriff. Outside of North America, prison and jail often have the same meaning.


  1. penitentiary

    A penitentiary is a type of institution or facility where individuals who have been convicted of crimes are incarcerated and serve their sentences. It is also commonly known as a prison or correctional facility. It's designed both to punish offenders and to protect the public by detaining criminals and attempting to rehabilitate them.

Webster Dictionary

  1. Penitentiaryadjective

    relating to penance, or to the rules and measures of penance

  2. Penitentiaryadjective

    expressive of penitence; as, a penitentiary letter

  3. Penitentiaryadjective

    used for punishment, discipline, and reformation

  4. Penitentiarynoun

    one who prescribes the rules and measures of penance

  5. Penitentiarynoun

    one who does penance

  6. Penitentiarynoun

    a small building in a monastery where penitents confessed

  7. Penitentiarynoun

    that part of a church to which penitents were admitted

  8. Penitentiarynoun

    an office of the papal court which examines cases of conscience, confession, absolution from vows, etc., and delivers decisions, dispensations, etc. Its chief is a cardinal, called the Grand Penitentiary, appointed by the pope

  9. Penitentiarynoun

    an officer in some dioceses since A. D. 1215, vested with power from the bishop to absolve in cases reserved to him

  10. Penitentiarynoun

    a house of correction, in which offenders are confined for punishment, discipline, and reformation, and in which they are generally compelled to labor

  11. Etymology: [Cf. F. pnitentiaire.]

Etymology and Origins

  1. Penitentiary

    The modern name for a “Magdalen Hospital,” designed as a home or refuge for fallen women who are penitent. This term was adopted also by the Quakers of Philadelphia in 1786 for a prison.

How to pronounce penitentiary?

How to say penitentiary in sign language?


  1. Chaldean Numerology

    The numerical value of penitentiary in Chaldean Numerology is: 6

  2. Pythagorean Numerology

    The numerical value of penitentiary in Pythagorean Numerology is: 3

Examples of penitentiary in a Sentence

  1. Dan Jenkins:

    Oakland Hills looked more like a penitentiary than a golf course.

  2. Sergei Lavrov:

    He is threatening the penitentiary officers and he, he makes all kinds of arrogant accusations, for example he says, he is saying that he will put a drill to the head of the officer.

  3. Sean Kelley:

    Prisons are designed to punish, to keep people afraid, to deter, this prison changed everything though. The people who built this prison said 'why not rehabilitate, why not inspire penance?' So they built this building calling it a penitentiary. The prison at that time was state-of-the-art, revolutionary and the most expensive in the world. In operation from 1829 to 1971, thousands passed through the large gates in the 142 years it was in operation. The prisoners included some notorious criminals like Al Capone and bank robber William Slick Willie Sutton. Sutton, in fact, was part of a 1945 jailbreak. He and 11 other prisoners built a tunnel they thought would carry them to freedom. Instead, within months after the well-planned escape, all 12 inmates who broke out were caught and returned. Slick Willie was captured just 3 minutes after breaking free. In operation from 1829 to 1971, thousands passed through the large gates in the 142 years it was in operation. The prisoners included some notorious criminals like Al Capone and bank robber William.

  4. Malcolm Larvadain:

    He's a free man. He was released a couple of hours ago from Angola State Penitentiary.

  5. Stephen Komie:

    He is his own most dangerous enemy if he gets on the witness stand, that's what could trigger a ride to the penitentiary. Judges do not like perjury.

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Translations for penitentiary

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"penitentiary." Definitions.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2024. Web. 19 May 2024. <https://www.definitions.net/definition/penitentiary>.

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