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

  • The innermost parts of a building, especially the sanctuary of a temple.
  • The most private or secret parts; recesses: the penetralia of the soul.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The innermost, secret or hidden parts.
  • n. The innermost parts of a building, such as a shrine, recess or a sanctuary within a temple.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • The recesses, or innermost parts, of any thing or place, especially of a temple or palace.
  • Hidden things or secrets; privacy; sanctuary.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • The interior parts of anything; specifically, the inner parts of a building, as a temple or palace; hence, a sanctuary, especially the sanctuary of the Penates.
  • Hidden things; secrets.

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

  • n. the innermost parts


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

Latin penetrālia, from neuter pl. of penetrālis, inner, from penetrāre, to penetrate; see penetrate.


  • But the returns also returned a more profound and philosophical truth -- the truth that the self is a layered entity; the truth that there can be reverberations in the penetralia of our hearts that are beyond our ability to grasp or modulate.

    Gordon Marino: Psychologically Processing the Election

  • Here, when you enter his gloomy penetralia, and invoke his services, the sable-clad and cadaverous- featured shopman asks you, in a sepulchral voice-we are not writing romance, but simple fact - whether you are to be suited for inextinguishable sorrow, or for mere passing grief; and if you are at all in doubt upon the subject, he can solve the problem for you, if you lend him your confidence for the occasion. . .

    Victorian Funerals and Mourning

  • Understanding that West had gone to great lengths to observe China beyond the treaty ports, this writer praised the artist for showing what he called “penetralia,” or “the inner life and natural scenery” of a country.

    The Romance of China: Excursions to China in U.S. Culture: 1776-1876

  • They did not take to literature and science, because these pursuits require severe work and more or less of a strong bias, for a thorough exposition of their profound penetralia.

    Black and White

  • Cameronian leader, in a voice which seemed to issue from the very penetralia of his person.


  • He wished to be what he called “safe” with all those whom he had admitted to the penetralia of his house and heart.

    Barchester Towers

  • Campbell, being obliged to acquiesce, is fain to stop his ears with cotton; to fortify his head with three or four night-caps and every morning retire into the penetralia of his habitation, in order to avoid this diurnal annoyance.

    The Expedition of Humphry Clinker

  • When I had finally regained the plain, and could breathe free, I mentally vowed that the penetralia of an African jungle should not be visited by me again, save under most urgent necessity.

    How I Found Livingstone

  • I believe, had I been in the inmost recesses of my habitation — the very penetralia — your eagerness would have surmounted bolts, bars, decency, and everything.

    The Adventures of Roderick Random

  • Having crossed his arms upon his breasts, with an inclination of the head, he stalked in solemn silence before them into the penetralia of the temple, where they found the conjurer sitting at a table, provided with pen, ink, and paper, divers books, mathematical instruments, and a long white wand lying across the whole.

    The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle


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  • cf. the Penetrata

    July 7, 2009

  • "Many who have been to Rooms forbidden the others, report seeing, inside these, a Door to at least one Room further, which may not be opened. the Penetralia of the Lodge are thus, even to those employed there, a region without a map."

    Thomas Pynchon, Mason and Dixon, 151.

    August 20, 2008

  • "'And even here,' said Stephen in the cabin, 'even in what seems the true penetralia of the frigate, little is said that does not become known, in a more or less distorted form, throughout the ship by nightfall...'"

    --Patrick O'Brian, The Letter of Marque, 37

    February 27, 2008