Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Of, relating to, or prescribing punishment, as for breaking the law.
  • adj. Subject to punishment; legally punishable: a penal offense.
  • adj. Serving as or constituting a means or place of punishment: penal servitude; a penal colony.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Of, or relating to punishment.
  • adj. Subject to punishment; punishable.
  • adj. Serving as a place of punishment.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Enacting or threatening punishment.
  • adj. Incurring punishment; subject to a penalty.
  • adj. Inflicted as punishment; used as a means of punishment.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Of or pertaining to punishment.
  • Constituting punishment; inflicted as a punishment.
  • Subject to penalty; incurring punishment: as, penal neglect.
  • Used as a place of punishment: as, a penal settlement.
  • Payable or forfeitable as a punishment, as on account of breach of contract, etc.: as, a penal sum.
  • In a more general sense, those statutes which impose a new liability for the doing or omitting of an act. Thus, a statute making the officers of a corporation personally liable for its debts if they neglect to file an annual report of its affairs is apenal statute.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. of or relating to punishment
  • adj. subject to punishment by law
  • adj. serving as or designed to impose punishment

Etymologies

Middle English, from Old French peinal and from Medieval Latin pēnālis, both from Latin poenālis, from poena, penalty, from Greek poinē; see kwei-1 in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Old French peinal, from Medieval Latin penalis, from Latin poenalis, from poena ("punishment"), from Ancient Greek ποινή (poinē, "punishment"), from Proto-Indo-European *kʷoyneh₂. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • I have heard from someone knowledge in penal policy that prison rape is almost exclusively an American phenomenon.

    The Volokh Conspiracy » More on “Weight Classes” for Prison Inmates

  • Immigration Judges may be required to conduct hearings in penal institutions and other remote locations.

    Mex US Relations and Living in Mexico

  • There's a wide array of things that people think are the very worst — murdering law enforcement officers, murdering in penal institutions, multiple murders, contract murders.

    Life or Death Decision

  • Well, as I've said, you can challenge that by saying, What about murders in penal institutions, don't we have to have some punishment available for those people?

    Life or Death Decision

  • The slaveholders who fought to maintain penal slavery in the Constitution understood that the criminal control system would be a lynchpin in the political economy of the post-Reconstruction South.

    Prison Slavery

  • However, I note that, like many other antagonists of the penal status quo, Mr. Wills fails to come up with a viable alternative to this madness we call penal "rehabilitation."

    Do We Need Prisons? An Exchange

  • Crime is only the retail department of what, in wholesale, we call penal law.

    Maxims for Revolutionists

  • I doubted also whether to make a distinction of ages, or to treat young and old alike; whether to allow space for recantation, or to refuse all pardon whatever to one who had been a Christian; whether, finally, to make the name penal, though no crime should be proved, or to reserve the penalty for the combination of both.

    The History of Roman Literature From the earliest period to the death of Marcus Aurelius

  • And when this puerile but malignant conspiracy is forgotten, as we trust it soon will be, and its ringleaders are expiating their crime in penal servitude, we are confident that England will be forward to show her sister nation, who refused to be wiled away into disloyalty, or to enter into even a momentary communion with treason, that she has no reason to regret her steadfastness.

    The Fenian Trials

  • Might not this detainment make a martyr of a man who could otherwise be shown, in a fair and public trial, to be deserving of long-term penal confinement?

    Barry Crimmins : Political Satirist:

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