Definitions

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

  • noun A prison for those convicted of major crimes.
  • noun A tribunal of the Roman Curia having jurisdiction in matters relating to penance, dispensations, and papal absolutions.
  • noun A priest whose special function is the administration of the sacrament of penance in a particular church or diocese.
  • adjective Of or for the purpose of penance; penitential.
  • adjective Relating to or used for punishment or reform of criminals or wrongdoers.
  • adjective Resulting in or punishable by imprisonment in a penitentiary.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • Liable to punishment by imprisonment of the offender in a penitentiary: said of an offense: as, a penitentiary offense.
  • noun A member of the Penitents, certain religious orders. See penitent, 2.
  • Relating to penance, or to the rules and measures of penance.
  • Expressive of contrition or penitence; penitential: as, a penitentiary letter.
  • noun A penitent; one who repents of sin or does penance for it.
  • noun A confessor; a person appointed to deal with penitents or penances.
  • noun In the Roman Catholic Church, one who prescribes the rules and degrees of penance; specifically, an officer vested with power from the bishop to absolve in cases which the ordinary parish priest may be incompetent to determine.
  • noun In the papal court, an office in which are examined and from which are issued secret bulls, dispensations, etc., the tribunal in charge being termed the Tribunal of Penitentiaries.
  • noun A book for the guidance of confessors in imposing penances, etc., prescribing the rules and measures of penance.
  • noun A place for the performance of penance; a small building in monastic establishments in which a penitent confined himself. The term was also applied to that part of a church to which penitents were admitted during the service.
  • noun A prison in which convicts are confined for punishment and reformation, and compelled to labor; a house of correction; the place in which criminals condemned to penal servitude are confined.

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

  • noun obsolete One who prescribes the rules and measures of penance.
  • noun obsolete One who does penance.
  • noun A small building in a monastery where penitents confessed.
  • noun That part of a church to which penitents were admitted.
  • noun 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.
  • noun An officer in some dioceses since A. D. 1215, vested with power from the bishop to absolve in cases reserved to him.
  • noun A house of correction, in which offenders are confined for punishment, discipline, and reformation, and in which they are generally compelled to labor; a prison; a jail. Colloquially often shortened to pen.
  • adjective Relating to penance, or to the rules and measures of penance.
  • adjective Expressive of penitence.
  • adjective Used for punishment, discipline, and reformation.

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

  • noun US A state or federal prison for convicted felons.
  • noun Roman Catholic Church A priest who administers the sacrament of penance.
  • noun obsolete One who prescribes the rules and measures of penance.
  • noun obsolete One who does penance.
  • noun obsolete A small building in a monastery, or a part of a church, where penitents confessed.
  • noun obsolete An office of the papal court which examines cases of conscience, confession, absolution from vows, etc., and delivers decisions, dispensations, etc., run by a cardinal called the Grand Penitentiary, appointed by the pope.
  • noun obsolete An officer in some dioceses since 1215 A.D., vested with power from the bishop to absolve in cases reserved to him.
  • adjective of or relating to penance; penitential
  • adjective of or relating to the punishment of criminals

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

  • adjective showing or constituting penance
  • adjective used for punishment or reform of criminals or wrongdoers
  • noun a correctional institution for those convicted of major crimes

Etymologies

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

[Middle English penitenciarie, penance officer, episcopal prison, from Medieval Latin pēnitentiāria, feminine of pēnitentiārius, from Latin paenitentia, penitence, from paenitēns, penitent; see penitent.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Medieval Latin penitentiaria ("place of penitence"), term used by the Quakers in Pennsylvania during the 1790s, describing a place for penitents to dwell upon their sins.

Examples

  • Please explain how a federal maximum security penitentiary is like a hotel in any way.

    Think Progress » Rove Backs Off His Criticism Of Counterterrorism Center, Perhaps Remembering Chief Is A Bush Holdover

  • "Minimum Parole" is a widespread experiment whereby certain penitentiary inmates who have not achieved ordinary parole, are allowed out with suitable supervision before sentence expiry, allowing one month for each year of sentence to a maximum of six months.

    National Parole—Its Successes and Its Failures

  • The two cases may be considered in connection with the announcement in the public press that on May 17, 1913, the President commuted the sentence of Lewis A. Banks, who was serving a very long term penitentiary sentence for an attack on a girl in the Indian Territory; "the reason for the commutation which is set forth in the press being that 'Banks is in poor health.'"

    An Autobiography

  • The two cases may be considered in connection with the announcement in the public press that on May 17, 1913, the President commuted the sentence of Lewis A. Banks, who was serving a very long term penitentiary sentence for an attack on a girl in the Indian Territory; "the reason for the commutation which is set forth in the press being that 'Banks is in poor health.'"

    XII. The Big Stick and the Square Deal

  • The State has not only been relieved of the cost of their keeping in penitentiary, but these men. working outside at labourers 'wages ($1.50 per day) produce in the year over one hundred thousand dollars to the support of their families and themselves.

    The New Criminology

  • The word penitentiary fell slowly, mechanically from his lips.

    Jane Cable

  • The two cases may be considered in connection with the announcement in the public press that on May 17, 1913, the President commuted the sentence of Lewis A. Banks, who was serving a very long term penitentiary sentence for an attack on

    Theodore Roosevelt; an Autobiography

  • A penitentiary was a place where you were locked in your cell with a Bible, and given a chance to think on the error of your ways: to become “penitent”–hence the word.

    The Volokh Conspiracy » Rare (Partial) Victory in Second Amendment Case:

  • They go from, let say, a United States penitentiary, which is a high to medium custody, yes.

    CNN Transcript Jun 30, 2009

  • Question regarding the trafficking requirement in the Mann Act. What is subjecting Spitzer to very, very serious charges with serious jail time in the penitentiary is the possibility of the Mann Act. It has been used.

    CNN Transcript Mar 10, 2008

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