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

  • n. A place for the confinement of persons in lawful detention, especially persons convicted of crimes.
  • n. A place or condition of confinement or forcible restraint.
  • n. A state of imprisonment or captivity.
  • transitive v. To confine in or as if in a prison; imprison.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A place of long-term confinement for those convicted of serious crimes, or otherwise considered undesirable by the government.
  • n. Confinement in a prison.
  • n. Any restrictive environment, such as a harsh academy or home.
  • v. to imprison

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A place where persons are confined, or restrained of personal liberty; hence, a place or state o� confinement, restraint, or safe custody.
  • n. Specifically, a building for the safe custody or confinement of criminals and others committed by lawful authority.
  • transitive v. To imprison; to shut up in, or as in, a prison; to confine; to restrain from liberty.
  • transitive v. To bind (together); to enchain.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To shut up in a prison; restrain from liberty; imprison, literally or figuratively.
  • n. A place of confinement or involuntary restraint; especially, a public building for the confinement or safe custody of criminals and others committed by process of law; a jail.
  • n. A prisoner.
  • n. A public prison or penitentiary.

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

  • n. a prisonlike situation; a place of seeming confinement
  • n. a correctional institution where persons are confined while on trial or for punishment


Middle English, from Old French, alteration (influenced by Old French pris, taken) of Latin prēnsiō, prēnsiōn-, a seizing, from *prehēnsiō, from prehēnsus, past participle of prehendere, to seize.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Old French prison, from Latin prehensionem, accusative singular of prehensio, from prehendō (Wiktionary)


Wordnik is becoming a not-for-profit! Read our announcement here.


Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • Stone Walls do not a Prison make,
    Nor Iron bars a Cage ;
    Mindes innocent and quiet take
    That for an Hermitage ;
    If I have freedome in my Love,
    And in my soule am free ;
    Angels alone that sore above,
    Injoy such Liberty.

    - Richard Lovelace, 'To Althea. From Prison.'

    February 7, 2009