from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A narrow, generally cylindrical implement for writing, drawing, or marking, consisting of a thin rod of graphite, colored wax, or similar substance encased in wood or held in a mechanical holder.
  • noun Something shaped or used like a pencil, especially a narrow medicated or cosmetic stick.
  • noun A style or technique in drawing or delineating.
  • noun Descriptive skill.
  • noun An artist's brush, especially a fine one.
  • noun Physics A beam of radiant energy in the form of a narrow cone or cylinder.
  • noun Mathematics A family of geometric objects, such as lines, that have a common property, such as passage through a given line in a given plane.
  • transitive verb To write or produce by using a pencil.
  • transitive verb To mark or color with or as if with a pencil.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun See pencel.
  • In medicine, to apply a remedy to (an inflamed spot, etc.) with a fine brush: as, to pencil a wound with lunar caustic.
  • To paint or draw; execute with a pencil or in pencil; mark with penciling or as with a pencil: as, finely penciled eyebrows.
  • To write with a pencil.
  • noun A small fine brush, such as may be used by a painter in laying on paints; technically, a special type of pointed brush the hairs of which are held by a quill ferrule with a wooden handle which is often detachable.
  • noun Figuratively, the art of painting; also, skill in painting or delineation; style of delineation.
  • noun An instrument for marking, drawing, or writing, formed of graphite, colored chalk, or a material of similar properties, and having a tapering end; specifically, a thin strip of such substance in closed in a cylinder of soft wood or in a metal case with a tapering end.
  • noun Writing done with a pencil, as distinguished from that done with ink: as, a note written in pencil.
  • noun In optics, all the rays of light which diverge from or converge to a given point.
  • noun In geometry, the figure formed by a number of lines which meet in one point.
  • noun In zoology, a tuft or little brush, as of hair or feathers. Also called penicillium.
  • noun See the adjectives.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • transitive verb To write or mark with a pencil; to paint or to draw.
  • transitive verb to write (a tentative appoinment) on an appointment calendar, so as to reserve time, but to allow the appointment to be readily canceled and replaced with another; -- also used figuratively, with other means of recording appointments. The notion being that something written in pencil can be more easily changed than something written in ink. The phrase is commonly used in the early stages of organizing a meeting of multiple persons, before it is known whether all attendees will be free at the suggested time.
  • noun A small, fine brush of hair or bristles used by painters for laying on colors.
  • noun A slender cylinder or strip of black lead, graphite, colored chalk, slate etc., or such a cylinder or strip inserted in a small wooden rod intended to be pointed, or in a case, which forms a handle, -- used for drawing or writing. See Graphite.
  • noun Hence, figuratively, an artist's ability or peculiar manner; also, in general, the act or occupation of the artist, descriptive writer, etc.
  • noun (Opt.) An aggregate or collection of rays of light, especially when diverging from, or converging to, a point.
  • noun (Geom.) A number of lines that intersect in one point, the point of intersection being called the pencil point.
  • noun (Med.) A small medicated bougie.
  • noun a holder for pencil lead.
  • noun (Bot.) an American perennial leguminous herb (Stylosanthes elatior).
  • noun a slender rod of black lead, or the like, adapted for insertion in a holder.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun obsolete A paintbrush.
  • noun Writing utensil that uses graphite (commonly referred to as lead). Regular pencils usually have a graphite shaft surrounded by wood. Also available in a mechanical version where the graphite length can be adjusted and sharpening is not needed.
  • noun geometry A family of geometric objects with a common property, such as the set of lines that pass through a given point in a projective plane.
  • verb to write something using a pencil
  • verb To tentatively make a booking or appointment.

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

  • noun graphite (or a similar substance) used in such a way as to be a medium of communication
  • noun a figure formed by a set of straight lines or light rays meeting at a point
  • noun a cosmetic in a long thin stick; designed to be applied to a particular part of the face
  • noun a thin cylindrical pointed writing implement; a rod of marking substance encased in wood
  • verb write, draw, or trace with a pencil


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

[Middle English pencel, artist's brush, from Old French pincel, peincel, from Vulgar Latin *pēnicellus, alteration of Latin pēnicillus, diminutive of pēniculus, diminutive of pēnis, tail, brush; see pes- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Anglo-Norman and Old French pincil (modern pinceau ("paintbrush")), from Latin diminutive peniculus ("brush"), from noun penis ("tail") + diminutive suffix -culus.


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  • A booking for a day's work that is not yet confirmed.

    July 4, 2008

  • "6. Physics A beam of radiant energy in the form of a narrow cone or cylinder.

    7. Mathematics A family of geometric objects, such as lines, that have a common property, such as passage through a given line in a given plane."

    - American Heritage Dictionary

    August 18, 2010